Miners' lives were 'sacrificed for money'

LOST: Pike River miner Ben Rockhouse
LOST: Pike River miner Ben Rockhouse

The lives of 29 men at Pike River coalmine have been sacrificed in the pursuit of money, an emotional memorial service for driller Ben Rockhouse has heard.

About 200 family and friends from around New Zealand and overseas gathered yesterday for the two-hour-plus tribute to his life at Avonhead School hall in Christchurch, where he attended as a youngster.

His mother, Sonya Rockhouse, told the crowd of the horrible Friday afternoon on November 19, 2010, when she discovered her son, aged 21, was one of 29 trapped in the underground West Coast coalmine. Their lives had been sacrificed for money, she said.

IN MEMORIUM: A display to commemorate the life of Ben Rockhouse at yesterday's service.
IN MEMORIUM: A display to commemorate the life of Ben Rockhouse at yesterday's service.

As a result, Ben's family would never get to see him fall in love, marry, have children and travel.

"You're damn right I'm angry. I'm bloody furious," she said.

"Our beautiful, funny, sensitive, loving, caring, generous boy has been taken from us forever. And for what? Nothing."

She spoke of how she and Ben almost died when he was born by emergency caesarean in Australia.

"He came into this world with a bang and he left this world with a bang."

Ben's brother, Daniel Rockhouse, was also in the mine when it exploded but managed to escape, dragging the only other survivor to safety.

He told the service about the last time he spoke to Ben underground on the day of the blast, arranging to meet up together later.

Ben had been asked to do some extra work in the mine, which he had agreed to do, but otherwise he wouldn't have been underground at the time. "I'm sorry this happened to you, Ben, and I love you," Daniel said, weeping.

Ben's eldest brother, Matthew, said he wished Ben was still alive to meet his newborn son, who was named Benji in honour of his uncle and would be christened today. "You will never be forgotten, Ben."

The whole family vowed to keep fighting to get Ben and his 28 colleagues' bodies out of the mine so they could be properly laid to rest, he said. The memorial service had been delayed to wait for the men's remains to be returned home but the mine's new owner, Solid Energy, announced several months ago that body recovery was extremely unlikely.

Sunday Star Times