28 Nov 2010

Mine visit will help families move forward, says mayor

6:15 am on 28 November 2010

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn says Saturday's visit to the Pike River coal mine by the families of the 29 men who died there, will help them begin to slowly move forward.

Ten busloads of family members - many of them children clutching bouquets of flowers - were taken to the mine on Saturday to pay their respects to the 29 men who died. The buses arrived in a convoy just after midday.

A Radio New Zealand reporter says the families were allowed to take photographs of the site and of a wall with the mine workers' name tags still attached.

Buffy Glengarry, a friend of one of the miners, Daniel Herk, said she found the experience "quite beautiful but very sad".

One man who lost a son in the tragedy said the last time he visited the mine there was still a sense of hope - now it was a farewell.

Others said it was a welcome change from the hall where they would be briefed every day and they found the setting peaceful.

The first explosion occurred at the mine on Friday, 19 November. Two further explosions have since occurred, on 24 and 26 November.

Mr Kokshoorn says the week has been an emotional rollercoaster for families, but being at the mine site should help them get a sense of closure.

He says it has been 'the longest week' for those closest to the men, but thanks to support, many will now be able to start navigating their way past their grief.

Mr Kokshoorn also says the spirit of the town will be lifted by watching the All Blacks wearing white arm bands when they play Wales on Sunday morning.

The All Blacks final rugby match of the Grand Slam tour will be played in Cardiff.

One minute of silence will be observed before the match and a collection, supported by the Welsh Rugby Union, will be taken during the game.

A New Zealand flag is at half mast at the site and small settlements near the mine are flying flags at half mast.

Sixteen of the men were employed by Pike River Coal, while the other 13 were contractors.