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Mine expert: First explosion ruptured gas line

Published: 8:05PM Thursday November 25, 2010 Source: ONE News

The man in charge of the rescue teams at Pike River mine says there was never an opportunity to enter the mine after the first explosion.

Trevor Watts from New Zealand Mines Rescue said the miners were "chomping at the bit" to get underground to help their colleagues.

He told Close Up that talk of a window of opportunity straight after the first explosion occurred was inaccurate, and from the first second after the blast another accumulation of methane was forming.

The explosion ruptured the underground gas drainage line and it immediately began spewing 800 litres per second of methane into the mine, Watts said.

"We had no evidence from our gas analysis that we could put our hand on our heart and say we didn't have a potential ignition source -  we knew we had the methane gas there."

The science behind gas analysis is mind boggling and totally different to what it was like 50 years ago, Watts said.

And he said comments that rescuers should just go in there and take a risk were unwarranted.

"If we had sent them in we would have killed between 12 and 18 Mines Rescue members.

"It's not acceptable to go and knock on the door of 12 to 18 Mines Rescue families and say, sorry your men have perished in that mine".

Watts said his staff are highly trained and highly skilled professionals with one of their own colleagues (Peter O'Neill), as well as friends and loved ones, in the mine.

"If we could have got in there we would have done so."

Staff spent the waiting time going through operational planning, risk assessment processes and checking equipment, and Watts said they were in a high state of operational readiness, ready to deploy at a moment's notice.

The men are still united in their desire to go in and get their brothers back , said Watts.

While he would not speculate on timeframes, he acknowledged that with the presumed deaths of all the men underground it provided an opportunity to make the mine more safe for them to enter.

" However long it takes , our men will be there to do their very, very best to recover these guys.

"We will minimise the risk as much as we possibly can, but our men are still going to be faced with hostile conditions."

Watts said the welfare of his staff is absolutely paramount but there is still hard work to be done.

"We've got to prepare ourselves for a tough and difficult task."

Click here for information on how to donate to the Pike River Miners Relief Fund Trust

Share your messages of condolence to the friends and families of the men lost in the Pike River Mine on our messageboard below.




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  • tit4tat said on 2010-12-03 @ 18:25 NZDT: Report abusive post

    condolences to the families, concern about the industry that allowed these men to work in unsafe conditions, mines are dangerous thats true but none can put their hands on their hearts and claim they have gone above and beyond what is lawfully required of them to ensure their "mates" safety. Glenn Grindly could lead the way by ensuring his mine workers and his local community are 110% protected people b4 profit yeah right!!!

  • tropicalkiwi said on 2010-12-02 @ 23:35 NZDT: Report abusive post

    To the families of the miners, my condolences. My thoughts have been with over the last 13 days, I have shed tears for your loss and hope that the support you have been shown in some small way helps. You will remain in my thoughts.

  • james q said on 2010-12-02 @ 17:17 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Tragedy has brought Australia & New Zealand together yet again. My thought are with the West Coasters in NZ from the west coast of Australia.

  • wellthatsafinemess said on 2010-12-02 @ 13:50 NZDT: Report abusive post

    when your here your here when your gone your gone there is nothing to be said there is nothing can be done and when the bell tolls your on the final run to your maker you may fly upon wings of mercy sigh forever you will be in our hearts & our minds eye Rest in Peace Gentlemen.

  • turret said on 2010-12-02 @ 13:27 NZDT: Report abusive post

    to hear your voice,to see you smile to sit and talk to you a while to be together the same old way that would be our greatest wish wish hear you laugh,to hear you cry on just a chance,to say goodbye to say the things we didn't say that would be our greatest wish today But all we can dois throw flowers on the water look fo the sun through the rain Lay a little flower gentle on the water Remember how we loved you to comb you hair,to lace your boots buy some beer ,let you choose .