Slow work recovering evidence

It can take Pike River Recovery Agency staff working underground 90 minutes to handle each piece of forensic evidence that they recover from the mine drift.

Chief executive David Gawn recently answered questions before Parliament’s finance and expenditure select committee.

If human remains were found, particularly if they were further down the drift, it would slow things right down, Mr Gawn said.

Normally, police would conduct the forensic site examination, but at this stage they were not going underground.

Mr Gawn said none of the staff who would be doing the forensic work were involved in the Pike Mine before the November 2010 explosion.

They had all been trained in the handling of forensic evidence and police in the control room could have real-time communication with them.

‘‘But it takes time, you know?

‘‘Even for a trained forensic policeman, they take about 35 minutes per item, and we can’t take in the sort of equipment that they would.

‘‘We can do lighting.

‘‘If it’s an evidential item of interest, as opposed to something there that they just want to bring out and record, then that’s a different kettle of fish altogether.

‘‘We did a trial of that the other day.

‘‘You know, you’re talking about, for a set of gloves, anything between one and one and a-half hours.

‘‘So, if you get a lot of that, it’s going to delay the process. But it is led by the police, and we do a handover-takeover in terms of that.’’

If significant human remains were identified, police would adopt an agile approach and reassess whether they would go underground to assist in the recovery of those.

Only a total of three people had access to the evidence room.

Mr Gawn said he could not tell the committee what had been recovered so far.


— Greymouth Star


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