Disaster shock now outrage
AS THE reality of New Zealand's Pike River Mine disaster set in yesterday, shock turned to outrage for relatives of fallen Fraser Coast father Willy Joynson.
While grieving family members and friends around the globe vented their anger at the authorities who had not sent a rescue team in to the mine in the days following Friday's explosion, Willy's cousin Russ Joynson pointed his finger in another direction.
The former coal miner, who worked for years with Willy at Howard's Burgowan mines, said the people who needed to be questioned were those in charge on mine safety regulations.
He said he understood there was a lot of animosity towards police and those in charge of the foiled rescue operation but stressed that if those who were angry knew about methane, they would understand why a team was yet to go inside the mine.
He explained methane, which was released from the coal as it was mined, was the most dangerous gas and it was diluted with fresh air so that it did not build up to explosive levels.
He said sending a team into a mine where methane levels were soaring would have been like playing “Russian roulette”.
“You can't see it, you can't taste it, you can't smell it – it's an invisible gas,” he said.
“You couldn't risk more people's lives on the slim hope the others were still alive.”
What surprised Mr Joynson even more about the explosion was that the mine didn't appear to have a system to remotely sample air throughout the mine or a machine on site to test air samples because helicopters were flying samples out.
He said in Australia, mine deputies carried gas monitors and tested the air regularly and continuous mining machines were fitted with monitors and automatically shut down if even small quantities of methane were detected.
He did not know if the New Zealand equipment had the same monitors but said whichever way, “this shouldn't have happened”.
“With a new mine and an area with a troubled past, they should have had every piece of monitoring and safety equipment that they could get their hands on to.
“There's 29 families there and they're never going to be the same.
“Just take Willy's family, he's got two boys, they've got no father. It'll have a huge effect on them.”
He said he'll be watching for the outcome of any inquiries into the mine disaster.
“If they've been found to be wanting, it would certainly sadden you to think that they hadn't taken every possible precaution,” he said.