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‘Leave men in peace’

By Jake Beleski

[email protected]

The mother of a former Wairarapa man killed in the Pike River Mine disaster has made an emotional plea for the ongoing ordeal to come to an end.

Francis Marden, who grew up in Wairarapa, was one of the 29 people killed in an explosion in the West Coast mine in 2010.

Yesterday his mother, Alfredton’s Hertha Marden, said the recently-released footage of a robot entering the mine was just another unwanted reminder of the terrible tragedy.

“It’s difficult – I just wish it would go away.

“It’s hard to live with . . . every time you turn on the TV you see it on the tele.”

Family members of some of the victims reacted angrily yesterday when footage taken a mere three months after the explosion showed two staff members inside the mine.

They said it appeared to show the mine was safe for manned re-entry.

Mrs Marden said her preference had always been for the mine to be sealed, and made into a memorial.

She said she could only speak for herself, but would rather the men were “left in peace”, instead of being trampled on.

“They’re gone and there’s nothing we can do about it now . . . I just want it to be finished and done with.

“My biggest fear is if they go in there, they’ll trample on their ashes . . . nobody has mentioned that.”

The fire was so intense there was a chance ashes would be all that remained of some of the victims, she said.

Francis Skiddy Marden was born in Concord, Massachusetts, but grew up in Alfredton with his parents, Hertha and Peter, sister Heidi, and brothers David and Billy.

He attended Hadlow School and Rathkeale College.

Mrs Marden said the constant reminders on television and changes in government decisions were only adding to the pain they had already endured.

“I was really happy when they decided they were going to seal it, then they changed the government’s mind and it starts all over again.

“You’ve got to live with it, but you don’t have to be reminded every time you turn on the TV.”

Bernie Monk, who lost his son Michael in the explosion, has acted as a spokesperson for the victims’ families since the incident occurred.

He has campaigned non-stop for the recovery of the victims’ bodies, and said the footage was another case of the government not telling the truth about mine safety.

“It’s been a complete cover-up right from the word ‘Go’,” Monk said.

He said it was time for all recordings from the mine to be released.

“All the recordings that were taken at the mine were removed by police and were never, ever shown to the families, but we knew they existed.”

“My argument is: ‘Hey government, step aside, stop lying, stop covering up for the country, let our experts in, we’ll get the job done and get on with life’.”

Acting Conservation Minister for Pike River Issues Nick Smith said the government had viewed the leaked footage, but had been advised it was used by Solid Energy as part of its investigation into whether the mine was safe to re-enter.

“As we have repeatedly stated, gas levels beyond the seal are consistently around 100 per cent methane, making a manned re-entry unsafe.

“The Government has, however, agreed to work with Solid Energy and the families to investigate the potential for an unmanned entry – this footage is being reconsidered as part of that investigation though that work is ongoing.”

–  with NZME










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