Hurt coal miner carried 50m to safety
A West Coast miner badly hurt by falling coal was carried 50 metres underground by workmates before being driven more than 3 kilometres to the surface.
The Spring Creek Mine was partially shut down after the accident about 2am yesterday and the injured miner, who was in his early 50s, was flown to Christchurch Hospital with spinal injuries.
A Christchurch Hospital spokeswoman said the man was in a "stable condition" this morning.
The Department of Labour confirmed they were investigating the incident, but could not comment further at this stage.
Inspectors from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment investigated the incident.
"A miner was hit by falling coal, and the inspectors who went to the mine today are concerned that Solid Energy's management of strata (or seam) stability in the mine is not at an acceptable level,” Brett Murray, general manager of the High Hazards Unit, said yesterday.
“Our inspectors believe the accident had the potential to have been fatal."
The injured man was carried 50m on a stretcher and then placed on a specialised mine vehicle and driven about 3km out of the tunnel.
He was part of a team installing roof support in a recently formed tunnel.
A fellow miner, who did not want to be named, helped carry the man to the vehicle and said he was conscious and talking after the accident.
"He wasn't in any obvious pain and told us he wasn't scared, but I think he was in shock," he said.
The injured miner had worked underground for about 30 years, was "well experienced" and in "good hands", his colleague said.
"It wasn't too good for the guys down there to go through that, but we are all trained and we did what we had to do. We have all been through the first aid courses," he said.
There was "nothing heroic in what happened", the miner said. "When you're down there you have to rely on your mates. I hope he would do the same thing for me, in fact I know he would."
The fellow miner had not witnessed the accident and had "no idea" what caused the coal to fall, but said he helped to seal the area off.
St John Ambulance took the miner to Grey Base Hospital with "injuries to his torso" shortly after 2am.
He was later flown to Christchurch Hospital by helicopter by the New Zealand Flying Doctor Service with an intensive-care medical team on board.
A Garden City Helicopters spokesman said the miner had spinal injuries. He was in a stable condition in a general ward at Christchurch Hospital last night.
Solid Energy's group manager of coal operations, Larry Hull, said the mine had ceased underground face operations before the ministry's decision.
It would now carry out reviews.
"If any changes are needed as a result of those reviews, the underground-mining teams and supervisors will take part in refresher training before work resumes."
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