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New Zealand mourns Pike River miners -

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New Zealand mourns Pike River miners

Broadcast: 24/11/2010

Reporter:

A memorial service will be held in the town of Greymouth in New Zealand after a second devastating
explosion at the Pike River coal mine ended any hope of rescue for the 29 men trapped inside.

Transcript

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: A second devastating explosion at the Pike River coal mine in New Zealand
has ended any hope of rescue for the 29 men trapped inside.

Tonight a memorial service has been held in the town of Greymouth as relatives and friends and the
nation mourn their loss.

The New Zealand Government has announced there'll be a number of inquiries into what caused the
disaster as some of the relatives have questioned why rescuers didn't enter the mine after the
first blast.

New Zealand correspondent Dominique Schwartz reports.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ, REPORTER: Greymouth is a town in mourning. Over the past five days, people here
have prayed for the safe return of their husbands, sons and brothers. Tonight they lit candles in
their memory, after receiving the news no-one could believe.

GARY KNOWLES, TASMAN DISTRICT COMMANDER: At 2.37 today there was another massive explosion
underground, and based on that explosion, no-one survived and we are now going into recovery mode.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Despite the warnings that a second explosion was always possible, the reality
came as a total shock.

LAWRENCE DREW, FATHER: We thought they were going into rescue mobilisation and then we got told to
hush up and then they told us a second explosion took place, and that's when people got up and
started yelling abuse, saying, "Well, you had your window of opportunity five days ago, why didn't
you take it?"

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Laurie Drew says he can't accept that his 21-year-old son Zen is never coming
home.

LAWRENCE DREW: I'm a father. I wanted my son back. I still do. But, I'm trying to be logical and
analytical, but it's hard.

PETER WHITTALL, PIKE RIVER MINE CEO: I was vindicated today and those men's lives are saved because
they did the right thing and they analysed and they went through the risk protocols and all the
people that asserted they should've just gone in anyway have just been shown why they shouldn't
have gone in.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall was at the mine this afternoon
and saw the explosion on closed-circuit television.

PETER WHITTALL: This probably takes us to the point where I'm unlikely to see my workmates again
and I'm unlikely to see them walk out of that mine.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Among those 29 workmates are two Queenslanders, 25-year-old Joshua Ufer and
49-year-old William Joynson.

JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER: To those families, we especially say we want you to have our
condolences. We want you to understand that the nation is grieving with you at this dreadful and
difficult time.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: The New Zealand prime minister says there will be numerous inquiries into the
mine disaster.

JOHN KEY, NZ PRIME MINISTER: Questions must now be asked and answered about how such a tragedy was
able to occur and how we can prevent another happening in the future. It's my expectation that
Cabinet will confirm the details of a commission of inquiry, that's next meeting on Monday, along
with any other inquiries that may be deemed to be appropriate.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: But right now the company says the priority is trying to get into the mine and
bring out any remains.

PETER WHITTALL: I still want 'em back and their families want them back and we'll be doing
everything we can to make that happen. We can't still go into an unsafe mine. It's just as unsafe
now as it was two hours ago. The gas will still be coming out of the coal. There's still an
ignition source. There's no doubt still burning methane from that explosion. But we want our boys
back and we want to get 'em out.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: For the families and friends of the miners there's still no closure.

LAWRENCE DREW: I shouldn't have to bury my son. It should be the other way around. Sorry, guys.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Just a terrible, incomprehensible pain.

Dominique Schwartz, Lateline.