herald

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Probe launched as all four trapped miners found dead

An inquiry has been launched after four men died in a mining tragedy that "stabbed through the heart" of a community.

The bodies of Phillip Hill, Charles Breslin, David Powell and Garry Jenkins were discovered at the Gleision Colliery in south Wales yesterday, dashing desperate hopes that any of the men would be found alive.

Authorities will now switch from a search and recovery operation at the flooded mine to an investigation into the incident, police said.

Police described the sad conclusion to the rescue efforts as "the one none of us wanted".



POCKET

The alarm was raised on Thursday after the shaft flooded, trapping the men in the coal mine.

It had been hoped that the miners -- originally part of a group of seven -- might have found refuge in an air pocket.

The bad news came through gradually yesterday however, with police announcing at 6pm that the body of the last of the four had been found at the pit near Swansea.

Peter Vaughan, Chief Constable of South Wales Police, said: "We've tried to bring this safely to its conclusion.

"Unfortunately the conclusion we have is the one none of us wanted."

Expressing his condolences to the men's relatives, he said: "I can't begin to imagine what the families are going through."

Fire and rescue and ambulance workers said they had never seen or worked in such conditions before.

The men's bodies were found close together, one on the exit side of the blockage and the other three, which were recovered yesterday afternoon, in the area where they had been working. The tragedy sent shockwaves through the close-knit Swansea Valley community, which had been desperately hoping that the last man would be found alive.

Mr Vaughan said: "We've been humbled by the community spirit that's been shown during this most tragic of incidents."

And he asked for the privacy of the families of Mr Hill (45), from Neath, Mr Breslin (62), Mr Powell (50), and Mr Jenkins, all from the Swansea Valley, to be respected.

One of the three miners who managed to escape the drift mine when it flooded has been named in reports as Daniel Powell, son of victim David Powell, who was said to be the site's maintenance engineer.

Of the three who escaped, one is now critically ill in hospital. The two other men who were with him emerged largely unharmed and helped the rescue operation.

Messages of support have poured in from around the world. British PM David Cameron described the Gleision Colliery tragedy, which is to be investigated by the Health and Safety Executive, as a "desperately, desperately sad situation".

The prime minister said the anguish of the miners' families was "intense" but that it was clear the emergency services had done everything they could.

Neath MP Peter Hain said: "This is the end we all feared but hoped against hope wouldn't happen. Extraordinary courage was shown by the families right through the night, tortuous hours of waiting.



SURVIVAL

"This has been a stab right through the heart of these local communities.

"There's a long tradition of mining here but nobody expected the tragedies of past generations would come today."

Asked whether the men stood a chance of surviving, Richard Smith, chief fire officer for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: "It's a bit too early to tell whether they would have stood any chance of survival or not but them being together where they were working will probably be indicative of that."

hnews@herald.ie

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