Died within minutes

January 27th, 2011 at 6:10 pm by David Farrar

The Chief Coroner has found that the 29 dead miners in died within minutes of the initial explosion. While not the final word on the disaster, it is reassuring to family and friends that any suffering was relatively brief.

Chief Coroner Neil MacLean found the Pike River miners would have died either from the impact of the blast or from the poisonous atmosphere it created in the mine.

Evidence showed those that survived the explosion would have lost consciousness and died from hypoxic hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, within minutes, he said.

The focus will soon shift to the Royal Commission.

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38 Responses to “Died within minutes”

  1. IHStewart (388 comments) says:

    I agree. I think that we all need to stop and think about going back into this mne. The coal is an important national asset, lets look at open cast mining it and enviromental rehabilitation after the fact. My thoughts are with the families today.

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  2. Shunda barunda (2,977 comments) says:

    YOU CAN”T OPEN CAST IT!!

    Why the hell can’t people just accept this reality?
    It is underground or nothing.

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  3. Johnboy (16,059 comments) says:

    Yeah. I mean even if you could opencast dig down that far economically it is now a grave site so can’t be touched.

    If it is ever to be mined again the bodies/remains have to be recovered first.

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  4. IHStewart (388 comments) says:

    You can open cast it. FFS if you live in Auckland go for a walk at three kings. Diging a hole is not a problem.

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  5. Shunda barunda (2,977 comments) says:

    All the coroner has said is that they are dead, we already know that.
    They have no way to confirm whether they survived the initial blast or not, what we do know is that sections of the mine were completely unaffected by ALL of the explosions. There is no way to know the nature of the fate of the men until someone goes down there.

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  6. adze (2,105 comments) says:

    [off-topic]

    Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall says open-casting mining at the site was never feasible because of the depth of the coal seam and the terrain.

    It has been suggested that if Pike River had been an open-cast mine, the lives of miners would not have been at risk.

    Mr Whittall says the seams are between 110 and 700 metres below the surface, because the size of the mountains above the seam changes.

    Even if the mine was not under conservation land, he says, engineering issues would rule out an open-cast operation.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/pike-river-2010/62883/families-shown-video-of-flames-coming-from-mine
    [/off-topic]

    In an inevitably-perverse way, it’s good to know they wouldn’t have lasted long. The worst outcome would have been to find that they survived until the second or third blasts.

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  7. Shunda barunda (2,977 comments) says:

    You can open cast it. FFS if you live in Auckland go for a walk at three kings. Diging a hole is not a problem.

    No I live in Greymouth, and I am telling you it is a stupid and ignorant position for anyone to hold, it will never happen.
    It is uneconomic and it is environmentally unacceptable, it is just pub talk and should be treated with the contempt it deserves.

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  8. Johnboy (16,059 comments) says:

    “Diging a hole is not a problem.”

    It becomes a major engineering problem when the hole is up to 700m deep. Not to mention a financial question as well.

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  9. WebWrat (516 comments) says:

    What absolute crap.

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  10. nasska (11,277 comments) says:

    Does anyone know whether the coal can be accessed from a different direction? I seem to remember some expert stating that as the mine sloped upwards it was always going to be a challenge to pull out the methane.

    Hopefully I don’t reignite the green vs progress debate but since permission to mine was only grudgingly given access through the National Park could make extraction easier. If so surely DOC can be coerced to allow better entry subject to reasonable conditions.

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  11. tvb (4,361 comments) says:

    Oh well the coal stays in the ground for another generation to mine. Never mind we are borrowing money instead, the next generation can pay off the debt with coal and other minerals we will not mine. I don’t care it is money in the bank and a one-off asset to liquidate.

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  12. big bruv (13,718 comments) says:

    Do we (the public) really need to know what the coroners verdict is?, the media slime have milked this tragedy far enough.

    It is time that they left the families alone to get on with rebuilding their lives, it is time that our media showed some respect, I imagine that the people of the West Coast have had enough of Jack Tame and his microphone polluting their streets.

    Let the poor bastards RIP.

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  13. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    What I know about mining you could fit on a postage stamp but I do know that with half the mines in Aussie now under water the coal we can produce will be money for jam. I know one can not start a mine overnight but all stops should be pulled out. Of course the howls of outrage will come from the usual suspects but outrage won’t fill an empty stomach. What is it now? 300 mill a week, the devil will come one day for his pound of flesh I hope his diet includes melon, they should be eaten first.

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  14. Shunda barunda (2,977 comments) says:

    side show bob, what people don’t understand about environmentalists is that the type of coal mine determines the level of their opposition. The Pike River coal was to be used in the production of steel, something many ‘greenies’ don’t have too much issue with.
    So if the coal in this field can be extracted in a way that doesn’t wreck the Paparoa national park (and it can) there will be no need for the devil to eat environmentalists first when he comes for “his pound of flesh”!!

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  15. Shunda barunda (2,977 comments) says:

    For those interested, this gives a very good understanding of the Pike River coal mine and covers issues such as gas management, the tunnel, and extraction methods:

    http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1042&context=coal

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  16. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    Sorry Shunda have issues with these people. They scream and jump up and down about my farting cows but say very little about us selling coal to overseas interests. The same two bobs had a protest the other day about oil exploration and when finished got in their cars and drove home, go figure. I’m all for the environment it’s the hypocrisy that pisses me off.

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  17. Blue Coast (165 comments) says:

    SB
    I to am a Coaster and I concur with your thoughts. Pike River would have done the sums and at the end of the day elected to tunnel.
    I have no problem with that at all provided all safety issues where sorted. I have never worked in a mine but I have been in Dobson, Strongman, Rewanui and almost every private mine on the Coast. This was 25 years ago but my reason for the visit was “risk” so I have a little idea of what can happen.

    I spoke to my very eldery Coaster Dad the day of the explosion and we both agreed no one would have lived through the first blast.
    I have used explosives and know what they can do in a confined space.

    The Police guy in charge was 100% correct and he needs some kudows and not a bagging from the MSM.

    Overall I am very proud on how the Coasters handled this disaster and the local Mayor needs a medal. I know he has bugger all sleep since the dreaded day.

    So all those experts put the brain in gear before you go to print.

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  18. ross (1,437 comments) says:

    I think Police mislead the families of the victims and the public. At no stage did police say that the men died quickly but apparently that’s what happened. So why did police give the familiies false hope by saying the men could still be alive? Police look incompetent out of the coroner’s inquest.

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  19. Johnboy (16,059 comments) says:

    I just wrote a cheque the next day and sent it to the Grey council Blue coast.

    What the hell else can you do?

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  20. ross (1,437 comments) says:

    According to the Herald, “It was known ‘at a very early stage’ that it was unlikely bodies would ever be recovered from the mine and identified through DNA testing and other scientific proceedures, he [the coroner]said”. Hmmmm, that’s not what police were saying at the time. At a very early stage, police were indicating the men could still be alive.

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  21. Blue Coast (165 comments) says:

    ross

    Can you tell how a the experts Professors etc could of given all this sage advise a few hours after the first blast. FFS

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  22. Gooner (995 comments) says:

    ross, what do you think police know about mining disasters?

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  23. Dexter (292 comments) says:

    Such a shame that people like Ross take an opportunity to make cheap attacks in the wake of such an event.

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  24. AndyC (28 comments) says:

    Sorry but I’m with Ross on this one. What were the Police going to say. “Sorry, but we have every reason to believe they are all dead.” Of course not. Correct me if I am wrong here but AFAIK in none of the media brefings did they give any indication of conditions inside the mine, the temperature , likely atmosphere or survivability chances. I honestly believe that they took breifings from their experts who told them it was a body recovery exercise from day one.
    The police knew of the Hypoxic atmosphere from one of the guys who got out, and he lost the plot from CO poisioning. The first I heard about him ripping off his breathing device due to confusion was today.
    The police already knew that and quickly worked out that this was in the first few seconds of the blast. They will have assumed, probably correctly that CO would have taken the rest before the first Ambulance had arrived.

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  25. geo_kiwi (43 comments) says:

    There won’t be any bodies found unfortunately. In the explosions, being in the mine shaft would have been much like standing in a volcano’s crater when it had an explosion and no safer. You would have been pulverised and incinerated all at once by debris and flame in a confined space. Its a truly horrendous way to die and you truly have to feel for the families who will never see the remains (indistinguishable amongst the other debris).

    I wonder if the faultline crossing the shaft was a natural conduit for methane, that then built up to combustible levels.

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  26. kunst5 (51 comments) says:

    As this link below of April 2010 West Virginia US coal mine disaster shows private coal mining companies have poor safety standards even neglecting safety issues. The consequence over year lead to many fatalities all over the world in that sector of industry.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36183425/ns/us_news-life/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/25/west-virginia-mine-investigation-methane_n_694787.html

    Pike River didn’t produce enough for the company. Financial and operational stress was obviously known to many. Mr Brownlee having the position of supervisory authority -why didn’t you stop Pike River temporarily for safety checks ?

    Why in this country are ministers not accountable for their inactions ?

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  27. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,746 comments) says:

    A lot of people die within minutes. Heart Attacks are funny like that.

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  28. Thomas the Unbeliever (141 comments) says:

    Agree with OECD. Lots of people die in accidents.

    I work with the victims of accidents. Such tragedy (sudden and unexpected death/serious injury) is common. However most victims/families do not live out that tragedy in a storm of media: all feeding the voyeuristic urge that lurks inside us all. Most victims/families do not get the sort of support (financial, social and emotional) that the Pike River families are getting. They struggle on alone and unnoticed.

    The events at Pike River are tragic – and coronial and other inquests are a necessary response to that tragedy. Most of the comments made outside of those processes are simply ill-informed.

    The little information that was disclosed at the coronial inquest shows just a glimpse of how information was available to the decision-makers at Pike River but was not widely circulated in the media (for whatever reason). Most of the opinions paraded across the media as events at Pike River unfolded were not supported by fact – notwithstanding their emotional honesty.

    Of one thing I am sure.: the people on the ground at Pike River tasked with making decisions had a lot more information to inform their decisions than the commentators who have sat in judgement of those decisions.

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  29. RRM (9,827 comments) says:

    # IHStewart (102) Says:
    January 27th, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    You can open cast it. FFS if you live in Auckland go for a walk at three kings. Diging a hole is not a problem.

    No. When there is a 700 metre high mountain over the coal deposit, no you can’t opencast mine it. This has already been discussed several thousand times.

    Mountains in the south island are a bit different than the “mountains” north of the Bombay Hill that you are familiar with!!!

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  30. Scott (1,780 comments) says:

    A very interesting post DPF. I have been very sceptical of the police response from day one and still feel the same.

    My reservations about the whole thing are these —
    why did it take two hours before mine headquarters knew that an explosion had occurred? I would have thought with modern technology there should have been some sort of instant early warning system?

    What is the procedure, the standard operating procedure, if an explosion occurs? Should rescuers have gone in straight away, which I understand has been the practice in days gone by?

    It seems very strange that in an emergency like this one, in a specialised environment like a mine, the police were called in to run the rescue operation. Certainly as far as I could tell on television, the police officer involved appeared to be a possum in the headlights, was overly concerned about the safety of the rescuers, and did not appear to have any urgency about going straight in and rescuing anyone who might be clinging to life with a gas mask on his face.

    Is getting in “experts” the best solution to what is a very practical urgent problem? The feeling I have is that experts don’t like to be wrong. Sending someone in to risk their life there is a high chance of being wrong. So experts are most likely to be cautious. I mean nothing can go wrong if rescuers are not sent in. If you do nothing you can’t be wrong. On the other hand if you do nothing then 29 guys in the mine are not going to get rescued. So I wonder whether a few brave men of action might outweigh 100 cautious experts?
    Now those experts are now pronouncing judgement that their judgement was right. Is there any possibility that there were miners still alive many hours after the explosion? We don’t know and will never know unless someone actually goes into the mine.

    I could be completely wrong on all of this. My own gut feeling is that when the chips are down and I was stuck in a mine I’m not sure that I would be reassured knowing that the police and experts were on their way.

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  31. Dexter (292 comments) says:

    “I could be completely wrong on all of this”

    The sole accurate statement in your rant.

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  32. backster (2,150 comments) says:

    GEO KIWI;……..”There won’t be any bodies found unfortunately. In the explosions, being in the mine shaft would have been much like standing in a volcano’s crater when it had an explosion and no safer. You would have been pulverised and incinerated all at once by debris and flame in a confined space. ”

    I heard a news item recently in which it was stated cameras had been sent down and bodies intact were spotted.

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  33. Shunda barunda (2,977 comments) says:

    I spoke to a family member of a deceased miner the other day and he said the video footage showed no damage to rock dust bags on a plastic wrapped pallet, drums standing upright and timber all stacked neatly.
    The families had to go through the official information act to get this information.
    Why were they lied to?
    We now know that parts of the mine were unaffected by all of the explosions, the families have a very rational reason to believe that at least some of the men can be recovered.
    What they are now thinking is that part of the mine was protected due to some sort of cave in.

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  34. Pete George (23,476 comments) says:

    I heard a news item recently in which it was stated cameras had been sent down and bodies intact were spotted.

    That was incorrect.

    Pike River: Video offers hope for recovering bodies

    Police said the new footage was well away from the areas the men were believed to be working.

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  35. kiwi in america (2,428 comments) says:

    Well said Thomas the Unbeliever

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  36. Scott (1,780 comments) says:

    Hi Dexter
    this is what is so annoying about Kiwi blog. I put down some points. You just dismiss them as a rant. That is discourteous and rude. You should apologise. You would never speak to me that way to my face. Try not to be so rude and be more thoughtful next time.

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  37. Dexter (292 comments) says:

    Scott, why the Police didn’t send rescuers rushing in like lemmings to die one after another has been tediously explained countless times in all the previous Pike River threads, as has why they are in charge of SAR operations in this country. Go and read them rather than derailing this one with the same spurious and thoroughly debunked claims.

    If you didn’t follow them then I truly apologise, and I am sure you are very intimidating face to face…

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  38. Pete George (23,476 comments) says:

    Is there any possibility that there were miners still alive many hours after the explosion?

    Coroner’s finding – first blast fatal

    Chief Coroner Neil MacLean found the Pike River miners would have died either from the impact of the blast or from the poisonous atmosphere it created in the mine.

    Evidence showed those that survived the explosion would have lost consciousness and died from hypoxic hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, within minutes, he said.

    Should rescuers have gone in straight away

    It would have been very high risk to a number of rescuers, and very low chance of saving anyone in the mine.

    Note that the two who survived were much further away from the blast zone than the rest of the men, on the outside of the blast, and were very lucky to get out.

    Right from the first day it seemed ominous for the 29 still in the mine. The police had to say there was some hope and try, they couldn’t just say “wait until the inquiry”.

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