Pike River tragedy inspires safety DVD

17:00, Apr 21 2014

Tears flow like it happened yesterday.

Sobbing widows, partners and parents jointly grieve the devastating loss of their 29 men. Their fresh outpouring of emotion has been sparked by a new mine safety documentary, Pike River: A Failure To Learn.

It encapsulates their horror blow-by-blow.

We listen to the final words of Malcolm Campbell, his Scottish lilt casually replying to Pike's control room just moments before the mine explodes.

We see blast debris pouring out the mine's portal and footage of flames later soaring from its ventilation shaft.

Heartbroken families are shown emerging from meetings in the days after the first blast. Some of them sit among us, watching their agony on screen.


Harsh lessons are spelled out, prompting many questions about false hope, about windows of opportunity for rescue.

"It was all a waste, 29 lives, $300 million, it was very badly managed," says Stewart Bell, one of the three royal commissioners for the Pike inquiry and Queensland's mine safety and health commissioner.

The 36-minute documentary ends with photos of all 29 men, their smiling hopeful faces fill the screen while Greymouth singer Paul McBride's tribute song Brothers 29 plays in the background.

When the lights go on, almost everyone in the room is in tears. Despite their distress, the 20 family members in attendance strongly support the DVD and hope it will prevent anyone else suffering such loss.

That is the very reason why Australian mine safety expert Mark Parcell has spent the past year creating it with Bell and has come to Greymouth seeking the families' approval before it is publicly released.

Parcell, director of the Mine Safety Institute of Australia, tells the families he has worked for the past 10 years to make mines safer "and then Pike River occurred".

He followed the disaster closely since the November 19, 2010, blast.

After the royal commission's findings were released nearly two years later he frequently raised them when visiting Australian mines as a mines safety consultant but was shocked at how few people had read the royal commission's Pike report.

"I thought ‘We've got to do better than this' because there are mines in Australia and there are 20,000 people working in underground coalmines in Australia everyday and they weren't listening."

He contacted Bell and they ran a series of seminars, teaching lessons learned from the Pike River disaster around Australia.

However, that series finished and Parcell feared those lessons would fade, so the pair collaborated on the DVD, gaining about $100,000 in funding, mainly from the Queensland mining industry.

The DVD will be officially launched at a mining conference in Queensland in August. 

The Press