Family of St Andrews mine disaster victim welcomes moves to retrieve the bodies

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The body of St Andrews man Malcolm Campbell, who was among 29 people killed in a mining disaster in New Zealand last November, could be brought home - but uncertainty surrounds who will foot the bill in the effort to retrieve the remains still entombed there.

The news that the mission to recover bodies from the Pike River mine will begin next week prompted Mr Campbell’s family to appeal to the authorities to do all they can to help bring their son home.

However, their hopes to be reunited with him were tempered by the fact that - on the same day - the family was holding the funeral in St Andrews of Malcolm’s grandfather, Jim Wallace, who died last week.

It has emerged that lawyers representing the families of those who died had been in secret talks with police, the mine’s receivers and its rescue trust to formalise a plan to recover the bodies and to ensure that the sale of the mine, currently in receivership, did not proceed without their position being protected.

However, what remains unclear is who will finance the intricate recovery operation.

The families had been made to believe the victims’ bodies had been incinerated, but recent footage showed that many areas of the mine were untouched by fire and bodies were intact.

Speaking to the Citizen on Tuesday, Malcolm’s father, also Malcolm, said: ”This news after six months of agonising uncertainty has given us new hope that we can get Malcolm and all the other boys out.

“It is disappointing that the families have had to pressurise those involved to recover the bodies. It is so hard for us now that Malcolm’s granddad has died too.

“Malcolm is still our boy and we just want to bring him home to be with his granny and granddad in Cameron Churchyard.”

In touch with the families in New Zealand and the lawyers representing them, the Campbells are now putting every penny they have into the fight to recover Malcolm’s body.

Mr Campbell added: ”Sadly, it all boils down to money. There are billions of pounds worth of coal in that mine and millions of pounds worth of equipment there. If, as we now know from photographic evidence, the bodies are still intact, then that equipment will still be intact too and the receivers, or whoever is going to buy the mine, will want to retrieve that.

“We know from talking to the men who worked there that no miners will work in that mine if the bodies are not recovered.”

Mr Campbell has refused to blame anyone for the mining disaster, but maintains that quicker action might have produced a better outcome.

He added,”I’ve spoken to several mine rescue men who say the authorities missed a chance when they did not go right in after the explosion. They are finding it very hard to live with the fact that they were not given the chance to do that.”

The families have been told that the cost of recovering the bodies could be anything from £1m to £4m.

Mr Campbell continued: ”We were told basically that there were 29 heaps of ashes in that mine. We know now that is not true.

“Now, it seems there’s a chance to get them out, but the families may have to pay for it.

‘‘Because of this uncertainty, we have no closure yet and now we have to come to terms with Jim’s death too.

‘‘It is very hard for us but we must stay strong, for Malcolm’s sake, and for our daughter, Kerry.”