9 Sep 2011

Images reveal massive damage in Pike mine

4:53 pm on 9 September 2011

Images showing massive damage caused by the explosions inside the Pike River Coal mine and what may be a body have been shown to the Royal Commission into the disaster.

An inquiry is being held in Greymouth into the deaths of 29 men killed in a series of explosions at the West Coast mine from 19 November last year. The mining company went into receivership in December.

The images were taken from the main ventilation shaft and from bore holes in the months after the tragedy.

John Taylor, a manager from Solid Energy, took the so-called Cals scans at Pike River using a special probe.

He told the hearing on Friday that images taken in April in the aftermath of the four explosions showed massive damage in the Hawera Fault area.

Mr Taylor said the mine roof had collapsed, large roof bolts had been bent almost in two and lining used on the walls had been destroyed.

He also described images taken in the days after the first explosion, including one of a box containing fire equipment with the lid open and one of a shape which may have been a body.

The commission was also shown an image of what could be a body. When it was shown to family members earlier this year, police said it was of poor quality and could be a number of things.

A report by a 3-D scanning expert John Moncrieff was read at the inquiry hearing on Friday.

It said the size, shape and intensity changes appear to be consistent with that of an upper torso shape, however the shape is not consistent with it being a complete body.

Although he could not confirm it was a body, Mr Moncrieff has discounted other possibilities, such as that the object could be fallen rock or coal, or foam put down the shaft the day after the explosion.

Second explosion

A second explosion on 24 November that ended hopes of finding any men alive in the mine was described in detail to the Royal Commission on Friday.

Solid Energy manager John Taylor, who was operating a scanner on the hill above the mine, says he and others were within 4 to 10 metres of the main ventilation shaft when the explosion happened.

Mr Taylor says there was a huge roar and a large plume of smoke came out of the shaft, coating the trees near the ventilation shaft with dust.

He told the Royal Commission that the explosion blew away a large metal duct and a toolbox near the shaft was smashed by debris.