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Chief Coroner visits Pike River families

9th December 2010

Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean said his visit to Greymouth yesterday has given him a thorough overview of the tragic events that occurred at Pike River Mine last month.

Judge MacLean met with the families of the 29 men who died, an experience he found somewhat daunting but made easier by the dignity and respect shown by those present.

“This is obviously a stressful time so I want to ensure the families have any information they need to help them cope with the difficult circumstances surrounding this tragedy.

“I felt it was the right time to meet face-to-face with them, answer any questions and explain how my Office may assist them deal quickly with some of the formalities required when a death occurs and how my role fits in with the other investigations underway or pending.

“I told them that my present aim is to move towards a limited scope Inquest in Greymouth early next year to facilitate the issuing of Death Certificates.

“We also discussed the difficulties faced in resolving the date and manner of death given the high degree of uncertainty surrounding the recovery of any bodies.

“At my request Dr Martin Sage, Forensic advisor to me and the Ministry of Justice, and Tony Garing, President of the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand, were also present and were able to speak privately with individual families,” Judge MacLean said.

Judge MacLean also met with emergency response leaders and those involved with the disaster‘s aftermath including representatives from Mines Rescue, New Zealand Fire Service, the Department of Labour and senior Police officers including Police Commissioner Howard Broad and Superintendent Gary Knowles.

"The briefing outlined the considerable issues and difficulties faced by those involved in the response operation. I also visited the mine site and surrounds to see for myself the challenges they are dealing with.

"I will continue to be fully briefed while the recovery operation and Police investigation continue, and will strive with the assistance of the Police ,Ministry staff and others to ensure we are doing all we can to assist those affected by this tragedy.

"I would like to again offer my condolences to all the families and friends who have lost loved ones and express my admiration for those who have worked tirelessly during and in the aftermath of the explosion at Pike River,” Judge MacLean said.

ENDS

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