The Pike River coal mine where 29 men died in late 2010 with a methane blast could be treated by the Government as a “crime scene” when re-entry finally occurs.
Radio New Zealand said yesterday that the Minister in charge, Andrew Little, told its Checkpoint programme yesterday that planning for re-entry was now at a very detailed stage.
“We're getting to the point where we have a senior police officer, a detective senior sergeant, seconded two or three days a week with the group because once entry is made it will be treated as a crime scene and there'll be forensic work required.”
And yet, as NZResources reported several times immediately after the tragedy occurred, the then run-down mine safety inspectorate had been absent and the police were left in charge in a scenario that then was totally foreign to them, and mine rescue groups were excluded from helping at a critical time.
The one blessing from this disaster was a revamping of mine safety within Government to put strong monitoring back on the agenda to complement the mine rescue culture that exists at other mines in the country.
Andrew Little said yesterday that forensic work could reveal more about what caused the explosions that killed 29 men inside the mine. If that happens, and if the evidence gathered is strong enough to support prosecution, Little said a manslaughter charge, or charges, were possible.
But, he told Radio NZ, it was important not to overstate that possibility to families exhausted by eight years of waiting, and by promises not kept.
“We're ruling nothing out. Equally, I don't want to mislead the families into thinking that this is a cinch, we get in there, we recover some evidence, and then a set of prosecutions can follow. We have to take this very carefully.”
*Sources: radionz.co.nz; nzresources.com