Pike River grief: ‘it doesn’t feel like 10 years’

White crosses line the road to the Pike River Mine in tribute to the 29 miners who died when the...
White crosses line the road to the Pike River Mine in tribute to the 29 miners who died when the mine exploded on November 19, 2010. PHOTO: ODT files.
Families of the Pike River miners gathered on the West Coast yesterday, marking 10 years since their loved ones never returned from work.

From about 11am, families came in groups to the Pike River memorial at Atarau, a small area fenced off, the perimeter filled with monuments, crosses, and plant pots.

It was a place they had come to many times over the past decade; the mine itself is not far up the road.

Several people came holding fresh flowers to be laid beside plaques bearing the names of their son, husband, father, brother or friend.

They met at Atarau, ahead of driving up to the mine at 3.44pm, the exact time 10 years ago the mine exploded.

Stephen Rose, who lost his stepson, 31-year-old Stu Mudge, said it did not feel like 10 years had passed.

"It doesn’t feel like 10 years, it feels like three or four months ago on a day like this ... we’ve gone such a long way in 10 years but we feel like we have only just begun," he said.

"I was thinking this morning that seven years ago we were poised to do what is being done now ... I think we’ve really only just begun, there are so many answers to come from inside the mine."

Mr Rose said he had just finishing selling firewood to a customer on November 19, 2010, when news of the explosion reached him and his partner, Carol Rose.

As it was a "modern mine", Mr Rose thought there would soon be answers as to what happened.

Ten years later, he was still waiting — and the fight for answers had taken its toll.

"At times it’s been hard.

"About four years ago I had severe post traumatic stress disorder, I just crashed and burnt ... you just kind of bury it, sooner or later it squeezes out."

Smiling, Mrs Rose remembered her son as a "ratbag from the day he was born".

At 31, he had "really turned a corner" and had found a career.

"That’s what really sad, we never really got to see his full potential ... the boys were snuffed out too early."

Like most family members at the memorial spoken to by The New Zealand Herald, Mrs Rose still wanted answers as to why the mine exploded and who was responsible.

"Really what we want is the truth ... we know the truth is there."

She still wanted the mine managers, including former Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall, to front.

"We need somebody to be accountable ... we’re hopeful the police can get a case together and bring charges."

Jo Hall lost her son, Daniel Herk, in the disaster.

She described him as a "good man".

"Dan was a very solid guy ... He would stick up for you ... he would put his whole heart into it.

"We had a perfect little life going, one we could manage and one in which we had a lot of fun — this has changed all of that."

Aside from the memorial yesterday, she said she and her family would spend some time at home "and just remember Dan".

She had also lost other sons, and each had a cabinet with their ashes in it — except Daniel, as his remains laid somewhere deep inside Pike River mine.

"He has been sorely missed." — The New Zealand Herald


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