Pike payout reaches some families

DEIDRE MUSSEN
Last updated 12:08 24/12/2013

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Some Pike River families have received their $110,000 payout as part of a $3.4 million deal by former chief executive Peter Whittall.

On December 12, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment dropped its 12 health and safety charges against Whittall over the November 2010 disaster at the underground West Coast coalmine that killed 29 men.

It believed its prosecution would fail, largely due to 14 of its witnesses refusing to give evidence.

As a result of dismissing the charges, former Pike River Coal Ltd directors and officers agreed to pay $110,000 to each family of the 29 men and the two blast survivors.

It was the same amount as Pike River Coal Ltd (in receivership) was ordered to pay in reparation in July and was understood to be insurance money that would have paid for Whittall's ditched 12 to 16-week trial.

Bernie Monk, the spokesman for most Pike families, said today the court had begun distributing the money and some families had already received their amount.

How it was paid out was at the court's discretion, he said.

"The most pleasing thing that I have got from it is [blast survivors] Daniel Rockhouse and Russell Smith are getting some payment, which is well overdue."

The pair had been denied any of the more than $7m raised publicly for the Pike River Miners' Relief Fund after the disaster. That money was distributed to the families of the 29 who died.

Monk, whose son Michael, 23, died in the explosion, said some families were struggling financially and the money would help to ease some of that distress.

"It's not a huge amount for the loss of a person."

When Pike River Coal Ltd (in receivership) was sentenced in July, most families gave harrowing victim impact statements. Many spoke of serious financial hardships as a result of the tragedy.

Monk said the payout had been controversial for some families, who were uncomfortable with it because they felt it had been tainted by Whittall's charges being dismissed.

Several other Pike families contacted today declined to comment about the money.

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