12 Sep 2011

Inquiry hears 111 call from Pike River mine

6:17 pm on 12 September 2011

The inquiry into the Pike River mine disaster has heard a dramatic account of the day last November when a series of explosions began that led to the deaths of 29 men.

The second phase of a Royal Commission is being held in Greymouth into the deaths of the men at the West Coast coal mine.

The inquiry heard a recording of a 111 call made by Daniel Duggan, the control room officer at the mine at the time.

In the recording, Mr Duggan can be heard saying he suspects a major incident, possibly an explosion.

He said the mine might need as much emergency care as possible - ambulances and possibly a helicpoter.

Mr Duggan said there were up to 30 people underground, an hour had gone by and no one was accounted for at that stage.

Mine ventilation shaft

Earlier on Monday, the inquiry heard more evidence that there was no dependable way out of the mine if the main shaft was blocked by an accident.

Former safety training coordinator Adrian Couchman said he tested a ventilation shaft to see whether it could be used as an alternative exit in the event of a disaster, and found that it could not.

The evidence is similar to that given last week by former safety manager Neville Rockhouse, who told the inquiry that he did not see a 100-metre ladder up an air shaft as a satisfactory exit.

Mr Couchman also said on Monday that safety audits which were supposed to be done once a fortnight were in fact done once a month.

He said there were cases of telephones that did not work and fire hoses left unrolled and tangled on the mine floor, in contravention of the rules.