Survivor recalls moment explosion hits mine

8:39 am on 6 September 2011

One of the two survivors of the Pike River Coal mine disaster has told of the moment an explosion ripped through the mine and how he thought he was dying.

Daniel Rockhouse was appearing at the start of the second phase of the Royal Commission's inquiry to establish what happened at the West Coast mine where 29 men died in November last year.

Mr Rockhouse said he had gone into the mine to get some gravel to repair a mine roadway and was at the pit bottom filling a loader with water when "something blew up".

"It was that loud I went deaf, I couldn't hear anything, and I fell over and hit my head and kind of slid down on my back," he told the commission. "I lay there for a second and then got back up and thought 'what the hell was that!'."

Mr Rockhouse said he thought he was going to die and remembers screaming "please don't do this."

He recalled recovering after about 20 minutes and, as he was staggering out of the mine, coming across another miner, Russell Smith.

He described how he dragged him at first and then how they had both helped one another out.

Electrician recounts his story

Earlier, the first man to enter the mine after the explosion, electrician Mattheus Strydom, told the commission how he had driven into the mine to check a power outage.

When was was about 1800 metres into the tunnel he had seen a man he now knows as Russell Smith - one of two survivors of the blast - lying on his back.

Mr Strydom cried as he recalled that he thought Mr Smith was dead.

He considered driving up to him but had breathing problems so he drove out as fast he could and told the mine control room what had happened.