28 Dec 2010

Pike River families visit mine on Christmas Day

3:23 pm on 28 December 2010

Forty members of the families of the 29 men killed in the Pike River mine disaster in November were taken to the mine on Christmas Day morning.

The police operation commander, Superintendent Dave Cliff, says they were given time to reflect and were able to place flowers and mementos and light candles near the bridge leading to the mine.

A police chaplain, Derek Cone, then led a 20-minute remembrance service, which was also attended by eight police staff.

The families left at about midday. Mr Cliff says, "The opportunity to be close to their loved ones, particularly on Christmas Day, was certainly appreciated. I know it meant a lot to them."

Laurie Drew, the father of 21-year-old Zen Drew who was lost in the mine explosions, said before he went that he was looking forward to seeing the site for the first time.

Mr Drew said the trip wouldn't bring him any closure, but it would be good to have some peace in the bush and be closer to his son.

Meanwhile, the GAG machine, which has been used for the past four weeks to put out the fire inside the mine, has been shut down for repairs and maintenance. The FLOXAL nitrogen generator is still operating.