Search robot sent into NZ Pike River mine breaks down, 29 miners fate unknown

Updated: 23 Nov 2010
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Read more on New Zealand   Pike River mine   Search robot   Gary Knowles  

Fearing the worst: Family members of miners trapped in New Zealand were left distraught after a search robot failed


24 of the 29 miners trapped inside the Pike River Coal mine: The miners are: Top row L to R: Conrad John Adams, 43, Glen Peter Cruse, 35, Allan John Dixon, 59, Zen Wodin Drew, 21, Christopher Peter Duggan, 31, Joseph Ray Dunbar, 17, John Leonard Hale, 45, Daniel Thomas Herk, 36. Second row L to R: David Mark Hoggart, 33, Richard Bennett Holling, 41, Andrew David Hurren, 32, Jacobus (Koos) Albertus Jonker, 47, William John Joynson, 49, Riki Steve Keane, 28, Terry David Kitchin, 41 Samuel Peter McKie, 26. Bottom row L to R: Michael Nolan Hanmer Monk, 23, Kane Barry Nieper, 33, Peter O'Neill, 55, Benjamin David Rockhouse, 21, Peter James Rodger, 40, Blair David Sims, 28, Joshua Adam Ufer, 25, Keith Thomas Valli, 62


Anguish: Families of the trapped miners have waited for four days for news of their loved ones


No news: Relatives are today facing up to the fact that the 29 miners still stranded in the mine may not have survived


Comfort: Families offer each other comfort as the agonising wait continues


The entrance to the Pike River mine where 29 miners including two Britons are entombed after a gas blast


Pike River Mine Graphic


Trapped Britons: Malcolm Campbell (left) is due to marry next month. Pete Rodger, from Perth, is also underground


Families hoping for the rescue of 29 miners missing after a New Zealand mine blast were left heartbroken early today (Tues) when a high-tech ‘search and inform’ robot broke down in the tunnel.
It had rumbled just 500 yards into the mile-long tunnel before it short-circuited, adding to the despair of the families - including those of two Britons - who had been already warned to prepare for the worst.
'This is a serious operation and the longer it goes on, hope fades and we have to be realistic,' said Police Superintendent Gary Knowles, the district commander.

He told a packed media conference early today that rescuers and families were aware they might now be dealing with the loss of life in the Pike River mine, 20 miles north of Greymouth, on the South Island.
‘We are planning for the possibility of loss of life, said the grim-faced police officer.
‘We are looking at all options,’ he said, repeating an earlier warning he had issued about the possibility of fatalities.
Mining officials would not confirm that the army robot, which had been thoroughly ‘road tested’ before it was sent into the mine early today had broken down because water had got into its wiring.

The breakdown of the robot, which was carrying a camera and listening equipment that might have provided vital information, stunned the families who were now into their fourth anxious and frustrated day.
Supt Knowles conceded the families were totally frustrated at the delay in sending a rescue team into the mine but he emphasised he was not going to take that chance when another explosion could occur.
Supt Knowles said: 'Experts still tell us that the level of toxicity in air and ground are still too unstable to send rescue teams in.'

He added that safety was 'paramount' and that people would not descend into the damaged mine until safety was ensured.
He said rescuers were now pinning their hopes on obtaining a second robot - but it would have to wait until one could be sent from either Australia or the United States.
Pete Rodger, 40, from Perthshire, and Malcolm Campbell, 25, from St Andrews, Fife, are among the group of 29 miners missing following Friday’s blast.
It is believed that a build-up of methane caused the accident. The ongoing presence of high levels of the gas has so far thwarted attempts to send in rescue workers.
SOURCE: Daily Mail
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