Police halt Pike River recovery effort

JOSEPH RAY DUNBAR: 17, Greymouth. The youngest of the miners. The day of the explosion was his first day working underground.
JOSEPH RAY DUNBAR: 17, Greymouth. The youngest of the miners. The day of the explosion was his first day working underground.
JOHN LEONARD HALE: 45, Ruatapu. Lived in neighbouring house to partner  Brenda Rackley on the outskirts of Hokitika. Hale was a contractor for Chris Yeats Builders.
JOHN LEONARD HALE: 45, Ruatapu. Lived in neighbouring house to partner Brenda Rackley on the outskirts of Hokitika. Hale was a contractor for Chris Yeats Builders.
SAMUEL PETER MACKIE: 26, Greymouth.
SAMUEL PETER MACKIE: 26, Greymouth.
WILLIAM JOHN JOYNSON: 49, Dunollie, Australia. An experienced underground miner who worked for many years in the Burgowan mines at Howard, near Bundaberg. His wife and two children live in Queensland.
WILLIAM JOHN JOYNSON: 49, Dunollie, Australia. An experienced underground miner who worked for many years in the Burgowan mines at Howard, near Bundaberg. His wife and two children live in Queensland.
TERRY DAVID KITCHIN: 41, Rununga. Has three children under the age of 10.
TERRY DAVID KITCHIN: 41, Rununga. Has three children under the age of 10.
ANDREW DAVID HURREN: 32, Hokitika. A keen hunter and fisherman, known as Huck to his friends.
ANDREW DAVID HURREN: 32, Hokitika. A keen hunter and fisherman, known as Huck to his friends.
DANIEL THOMAS HERK: 36, Runanga. Grew up between Greymouth and Hokitika and has done a lot of mine work, his grandfather says.
DANIEL THOMAS HERK: 36, Runanga. Grew up between Greymouth and Hokitika and has done a lot of mine work, his grandfather says.
GLEN PETER CRUSE: 35, Cobden. Grew up in Greymouth. Leaves a partner and two children.
GLEN PETER CRUSE: 35, Cobden. Grew up in Greymouth. Leaves a partner and two children.
RIKI STEVE KEANE: 28, Greymouth. First five-eighth for the Blaketown Rugby Football Club, one of three club members to perish in the mine.
RIKI STEVE KEANE: 28, Greymouth. First five-eighth for the Blaketown Rugby Football Club, one of three club members to perish in the mine.
KEITH THOMAS VALLI: 62, Winton.  The oldest of the 29 miners.
KEITH THOMAS VALLI: 62, Winton. The oldest of the 29 miners.
PETER O'NEILL: 55, Runanga. Member of a well known mining family and keen lawn bowler.
PETER O'NEILL: 55, Runanga. Member of a well known mining family and keen lawn bowler.
RICHARD BENNETT HOLLING: 41, Blackball. Grew up in Christchurch and is the first of his family to go down a mine.
RICHARD BENNETT HOLLING: 41, Blackball. Grew up in Christchurch and is the first of his family to go down a mine.
DAVID MARK HOGGART: 33, Foxton.
DAVID MARK HOGGART: 33, Foxton.
JACOBUS ALBERTUS JONKER: 47, Cobden, South Africa.
JACOBUS ALBERTUS JONKER: 47, Cobden, South Africa.
STUART MUDGE: 31, Runanga. Orginally from Whangarei. His dad said working in the mine gave Stuart an "outlet for his energy".
STUART MUDGE: 31, Runanga. Orginally from Whangarei. His dad said working in the mine gave Stuart an "outlet for his energy".
MICHAEL MONK: 23, Greymouth. Rugby rep for the West Coast. Had a long-term girlfriend. Son of hotelier Bernie Monk and West Coast netball rep and coach Cath Monk.
MICHAEL MONK: 23, Greymouth. Rugby rep for the West Coast. Had a long-term girlfriend. Son of hotelier Bernie Monk and West Coast netball rep and coach Cath Monk.
JOSH UFER: 25, Middlemount, Queensland, Australia. Ufer's fiancee, Rachelle Weaver, is three months pregnant.
JOSH UFER: 25, Middlemount, Queensland, Australia. Ufer's fiancee, Rachelle Weaver, is three months pregnant.
BEN ROCKHOUSE: 21, Greymouth. The younger brother of coal miner Daniel Rockhouse, 24, who was one of only two men to escape the mine.
BEN ROCKHOUSE: 21, Greymouth. The younger brother of coal miner Daniel Rockhouse, 24, who was one of only two men to escape the mine.
CHRIS DUGGAN: 31, Greymouth.
CHRIS DUGGAN: 31, Greymouth.
PETE RODGER:  40, Greymouth. From Perth, Scotland, and lived in New Zealand with his girlfriend.
PETE RODGER: 40, Greymouth. From Perth, Scotland, and lived in New Zealand with his girlfriend.
MALCOLM CAMPBELL:  25, Greymouth. Was due to marry Kiwi fiancee Amanda on December 18. Originally from St Andrews in Fife, Scotland.
MALCOLM CAMPBELL: 25, Greymouth. Was due to marry Kiwi fiancee Amanda on December 18. Originally from St Andrews in Fife, Scotland.

Police have announced they are stopping the effort to recover the remains of 29 miners killed in the Pike River coal mine tragedy in November last year.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad this evening briefed families about the latest development at the Pike River mine where rescue staff have been battling  to stabilise dangerous gases and temperatures since the disaster.

» Click here to see interactive timeline

Broad told a media conference that he had little confidence that the bodies of the miners would ever be recovered.

While it was technically possible, it was impractical and too unsafe, Broad said.

RECOVERY EFFORT ABANDONED: Trevor and Lynne Sims after attending a meeting with an update on recovery of bodies from the Pike River mine. They lost their son Blair.
RECOVERY EFFORT ABANDONED: Trevor and Lynne Sims after attending a meeting with an update on recovery of bodies from the Pike River mine. They lost their son Blair.

"Frankly, my confidence in terms of a recovery operation to bring the men out is quite low," he said.

"The assessment is that the likelihood of getting into the mine safely is unrealistic."

Experts from Australia and New Zealand agreed that any recovery effort was unrealistic, the commissioner said.

"On this advice we do not hold out hope the men will be recovered.''

"It is time to focus on the living and memorialise those men who have died.''

Asked if the mine would now be sealed, Broad said: "I hesitate to use the word 'sealing'''

Police were disappointed, he said.

Broad said responsibility for securing the mine had been handed to the receivers for Pike River Mine.

It was up to them to decide whether or not the mine was "commercially viable''.

Broad said families of the miners had mixed emotions about the news.

"I think they were grateful for having been briefed on this. They have asked for additional briefings."

Family spokesman Bernie Monk has just told The Press he supported the police decision.

Recently, efforts at the mine have focused on plugging cracks around the mine's  mine shaft and ventilation shaft with expanding foam to allow water and nitrogen pumped into the mine since the disaster to produce conditions allowing rescuers to re-enter the mine.

Families of the miners and contractors who died in the disaster were told about the latest development about 5pm. 

'ONE HEARTACHE AFTER ANOTHER'

Since the first explosion at the Pike River mine on November 19, 2010 the West Coast community has faced one heartache after another.

BOUND BY TRAGEDY: Family of the lost Pike River miners offer each other support after being told police were halting their operation to recover the miners' remains.
BOUND BY TRAGEDY: Family of the lost Pike River miners offer each other support after being told police were halting their operation to recover the miners' remains.

Originally the 29 faimilies had hoped the trapped miners' bodies would be returned home before Christmas, but continuous fluctuating gas levels at the mine made the recovery impossible.

Four days before Christmas the rising gas levels inside the mine forced a temporary evacuation of staff at the site and the GAG (Gorniczy Agregat Gasniczy) machine, which was pumping water vapour into the mine, was shut down for repairs.

The hope to have loved ones returned to the Pike River families was shattered again on December 22 when police said it would be more than three months before the mine would be safe to enter.

On Christmas day the 29 families joined together at the coalmine site for a brief remembrance service to get as close to their trapped loved ones as possible.

The West Coast community was faced with more bad news on New year's Day when it was announced that it would take more than a year for a Royal Commission into the Pike River disaster.

On Tuesday, the GAG machine was switched off once again and the hillside had to be evacuated because of unsafe gas levels inside the mine.

Earlier this week police said preparations were being made to drill more boreholes into the main coalface area of the mine to monitor gas and temperature levels.

The Press