An initial explosion probably killed the miners, and fears of further explosions in an ignitable atmosphere prevented a rescue attempt.
A second explosion extingushed any remaining hope that some of these miners may have remained alive in some protected corner. Explosion temperature estimates approached 1000 degrees Celcius.
The recovery operation is important to familes who want, and deserve, the opportunity to farewell their departed loved ones in a culturally appropriate manner.
I have received many calls asking for my thoughts on what might have happened, and replied ‘I have no idea’. Already I have been told of some safety issues at the site that may or may not have contributed to this horrific outcome.
It is human nature to try to explain events in terms of direct causes. The risk here is if we try and find ‘why’ too quickly, our ready conclusions may be incorrect.
It is important now to allow a country and the global mining community to grieve. The brotherhood had lost 29 mates.
There shall be time enough to deconstruct the events and find out ‘why’ this tragedy has occurred, and that must be done, and done well.
I have a standard practice when disasters happen close to home, and across the ‘ditch’ is pretty close, to offer the community, the investigative process, or the company my help, pro bono.
One of the human faces on this tragedy is an Australian guy who was due to become a father very soon. His pregnant partner was in New Zealand, praying for his survival. For one young Kiwi guy it was his first day at work, and his last. Another was due to be married in a couple of weeks. They were part of 29 human tragedies.
Now is the time to stand well back from your own operation, and critically review your own systems. Think of the young guy on his first shift in a job that he wanted, and take action at home now.
Whether we lose a life due to a pallet that slipped, or an explosion, makes no difference to our families and friends. I nearly died two years ago and confronted these thoughts while lying broken on the side of a road. I have some resonance for what incident victims go though.
To our Kiwi cousins, our heartfelt condolences. May, in time, loving and treasured memories of time past, exceed the horrors of the present, kindest regards.
• David G Broadbent is an Australian-based safety technologist, organisational psychologist, and founder of TransformationalSafety.Com