The St Andrews family who lost their son in the New Zealand mining disaster last November have been told that the long-awaited effort to recover the remains of the 29 men who died in the tragedy might be about to begin this weekend.
However, with so many of their expectations being dashed previously, Malcolm and Jane Campbell are not building up their hopes that the body of their 25-year-old son, Malcolm, will be able to be brought back home soon to Fife.
Indeed, the Campbells have accepted that it might take up to two years for the recovery process to be completed at the Pike River Mine.
The news that the recovery mission may start has come after a film report screened on New Zealand television showed an image of an opened rescue box from deep underground. It was snapped on a former employee’s phone from a computer just before the second explosion at Greymouth.
The authorities have always maintained that no-one could have survived the first blast. However, there has been growing concern among the men’s families that was not the case and images from the mine have shown a helmet and papers lying on the ground, which contradicted earlier reports that searing flames had engulfed the area.
In an interview on New Zealand television, former Pike River supervisor Peter Sattler, who left owing to concerns over safety last July, analysed the new image from inside the mine which showed two cases containing rescue equipment, one open with ‘self-rescuers’ (breathing apparatus equipment) having been removed, the other closed.
He said that he believed the securely clasped open box could not have been blown open by the blast, particularly as the one right next to it remained closed.
Other previous footage has shown that many areas of the mine were untouched by fire and bodies were intact.
Mrs Campbell told the Citizen yesterday (Thursday): ”We have been in contact with New Zealand and the recovery seems to be going ahead, but we have been on this roller coaster before so we are taking each day as it comes.
“All we have ever asked is for them to at least try, and no matter how painful, we always want them to be truthful. The recovery we are told could take up to two years.”
The family said that now that they knew that two bodies had been seen on the camera, they had visions of the men lying in the mine.
Mrs Campbell added: ”You just want to go in and get them out. I know this is futile, but it is so frustrating. We would like an end to this nightmare. We just want Malcolm home with us, and laid to rest beside his gran and grandad at Cameron.
“A place where we can go to speak to him, a place to visit. This awful pain will never go away, but some closure I think would help us as a family to try and come to terms with our loss of Malcolm who had everything to live for.”
The family has also thanked all those people who have been involved in fund raising to help aid the recovery mission.
Mrs Campbell said: ”Everyone has been so kind. We are forever grateful to all these people who have given their time to fund raise for the recovery programme.”
Over recent weeks, lawyers representing the families of the men who died in the tragedy have been in meetings with police, the mine’s receivers and the mine’s rescue trust.
Gas levels at the mine are being monitored regularly and any decision to begin the recovery programme must be approved by the Department of Labour, Mines Rescue and an expert panel, although the stabilisation process, ahead of any re-entry, is expected to take several months.