ON November 19 “our lives changed forever” when the Pike River Mine exploded, the mining company chief executive told mourners yesterday.
Peter Whittall thanked every one of the 11,000 people packed into the Omoto Racecourse in Greymouth for being at the service “in tribute to our 29 lost mates”.
He said no one could imagine the sense of loss suffered by the families whose men were still in the mine.
For five days they hoped and prayed they would see their men again but those hopes were dashed by the second explosion.
“Since then we have continued to work to get our guys out of the mine and back to our families and still we wait,” Mr Whittall said.
“All of New Zealand and much of the world has joined us in this tragedy.
“Your kind words of encouragement, your texts, your emails, your letters, your gifts of encouragement and support for our Pike team, our families, and our emergency services have been overwhelming and so very welcome.”
Mr Whittall acknowledged mine rescue services from New Zealand, New South Wales and Queensland.
“This is an ongoing operation. While we mourn our lost mates we are still working continuously to bring them home.
“Our men are still in the mine and the mine is still holding us out.
“We are fighting to win the battle with science, with courage, with tenacity and with sheer bloody determination.”
As Mr Whittall closed his address and thanked the staff of Pike River Coal – his voice wavered slightly.
They had worked tirelessly and shown courage, flexibility and true loyalty to the men underground.
“Today is a day of remembrance as every day will be from now on. I am sure none of us will ever forget,” he said.
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