12 May 2023

Pike River Mine latest discovery: More human remains possibly found

2:44 pm on 12 May 2023

Possible human remains have been identified from images inside the Pike River Mine, taken as part of the criminal investigation into the explosion over a decade ago, which killed 29 men.

Watch Detective Superintendent Darryl Sweeney giving an update here:

Police announced in September 2022 they were reopening the borehole drilling operation, with work beginning on 10 additional boreholes in late January.

Detective Superintendent Darryl Sweeney said recent imaging indicated the possibility of human remains near borehole six, where men were known to be building a "stopping" (wall) when the mine first exploded on 19 November, 2010.

Two pathologists have viewed the images but have been unable to determine whether they definitively showed human remains.

Police have spoken to the families of the three men believed to have been working in the area.

Sweeney said police were committed to keeping the miners' families informed.

"We recognise this is an incredibly difficult process for the families of the 29 men killed at Pike River.

"While we can't say with any certainty that we've located human remains, we have shared what we've found as well as the pathologists' conclusions.

"Our thoughts are with the families as they process this news," he said.

Police say all three boreholes drilled over the last three weeks had yielded useful images.

The final three holes will be drilled in the coming weeks, concluding the scene investigation at the mine.

'It's looking better than it ever has'

Families advocate Sonya Rockhouse, whose son was among those killed in the 2010 disaster, said the new findings added more "weight" to the possibility of prosecution.

"I'm feeling sad for those families who have family members in that area. But it just further vindicates the fact that we needed to go into the drift and start to get all this evidence out," she told RNZ's Midday Report.

She said every bit of new evidence uncovered increases the likelihood of a successful prosecution.

"I don't know that anyone will ever get closure, but at least it might give some answers as well as to what happened."

Pike River re-entry announcement. Relative of mine victim, Sonya Rockhouse.

Sonya Rockhouse. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

After the final three holes are completed, Rockhouse hopes the legal process will progress.

"Hopefully towards the end of this year or into early into next year, we'll find out whether or not there are going to be prosecutions and in what those involve.

"So yeah, hopefully it's looking better than it ever has and every time they find more stuff or more things, it's just adding to the weight of it. So, it's all good."

The last concrete block is removed from the 30m seal at Pike River Mine.

The last concrete block being removed from the 30m seal at Pike River Mine, to enable the scene investigation to resume. Photo: Pike River Recovery Agency / Supplied

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