20 Jun 2017

Pike river: police deny footage reveals several bodies

2:56 pm on 20 June 2017

Police are denying that footage from inside the Pike River mine reveals several intact bodies, as families of the victims claim.

Pike River

The Pike River Mine, northeast of Greymouth, was acquired by Solid Energy in 2012 - two years after the explosion that killed 29 men. Photo: RNZ

Family members say video footage shows five or six bodies inside the mine.

An explosion at the West Coast mine in 2010 killed 29 men.

Sonya Rockhouse, whose son Ben died in the mine, told Morning Report the footage was handed to her by police a few weeks ago.

Ms Rockhouse said one of the clearer images showed an intact body, and there were other pictures showing bodies in other parts of the mine.

She said the footage, which she understood was taken within four months of the explosion, was not shown in public at the Royal Commission of Inquiry.

Families want to be allowed into the mine to retrieve as many bodies as they can.

The government and Solid Energy, which bought the mine assets in 2012, have consistently said that manned re-entry would be too dangerous.

Ms Rockhouse said they needed to be very sensitive about the fact there were some families who did not want the images shown.

Bernie Monk, another family member, said he had not seen the footage, but said Ms Rockhouse had gone through the footage with a "fine tooth comb".

Ms Rockhouse said there were still "hours and hours" of video footage to go through.

Solid Energy chief executive Tony King said he was aware one body had been seen on video footage, but not that more bodies might have been seen.

He told Morning Report the company has been asked by the government to look at the feasibility of a robot entering the drift of the mine, but not the main part of the mine.

Mr King said it would be up to police and WorkSafe New Zealand to review the video footage.

Image of body 'widely known' - police

A police spokesperson said it was "widely known" that footage taken from within the mine has potentially captured an image of a body, and that his had been reported in the media.

"Police [have] viewed all the video and still imagery we supplied to the Pike River families and hold the view that only one body has potentially been captured in the imagery.

"If family members have concerns about any imagery which they believe shows other bodies in the mine then they are welcome to raise this with police, and such imagery will be carefully assessed," they said.