30 Nov 2010

Families to have legal aid for mine inquiry - PM

2:50 pm on 30 November 2010

Prime Minister John Key says the families of those killed in the Pike River disaster will have access to legal aid, so they can be represented at the Royal Commission.

The Cabinet on Monday agreed to establish a Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal mine tragedy in which 29 workers died after explosions at the West Coast mine from 19 November.

Mr Key told Morning Report that one of the reasons the Royal Commission will be held on the West Coast is to allow the families to attend and listen to the submissions.

He said it would be up to the families to decide how they are represented, and whether to use one lawyer as a group or several lawyers.

Families' anguish continues

Some family members of the Pike River workers say they have been told it is unlikely that any of the 29 bodies will be recovered intact.

They say the police have warned that DNA evidence will probably be needed to identify the remains of the men killed.

Geoff Valli, whose brother Keith died in the mine, says it was hard for many families to hear that a full recovery of the bodies is unlikely.

But Mr Valli says the worst news had already come, last Wednesday, when they learned the men had died.

Kathy Lintott, who lost her 28-year-old nephew Riki Keane in the mine, says her brain knows he's not coming home but with no body to mourn over, her heart won't quite believe it.

The families have also been shown video footage of flames shooting from the mine's ventilation shafts.