Pike River survivor says robot video proof of safe re-entry
One of the two survivors of Pike River says video of a robot in the mine's access tunnel is proof it is safe to enter - and NZ First leader Winston Peters says he'll rule out supporting any government unless they allow mines rescue workers to enter to the mine.
Nobody is better qualified to talk about Pike River than Russell Smith. He is a survivor who got out.
Mr Smith is so convinced it's safe that he'd go back in himself.
And Mr Peters supports the right to re-enter.
"I've made a commitment - there will be no future Government that we're involved in - without the right to go back in," Mr Peters says.
Prime Minister Bill English is refusing to rule out Mr Peter's bottom line.
"Well, we're not ruling in, we're not ruling out - five months before an election," he says.
Mr Smith was working on a loader when the mine exploded. He escaped over 1500 metres down the access tunnel with the only other survivor, Daniel Rockhouse.
And he never knew the video existed.
"I was quite surprised. I never knew that was actually out there," Mr Smith says.
And he also never knew that mines rescue workers had gone in three months after it exploded.
"To see men up the mine, that was quite surprising," he says.
The men went through the airlocked portal - and two metres into the access tunnel, which the Prime Minister has used to downplay the video.
But Mr Smith says that's wrong.
"Once they go through that stopping, they are in gas no matter what. If the gas is thick up there, it's thick down there," he says.
"It's inert wherever they are they are in that mine. It makes no difference how far they are."
The video shows the robot unable to get past a loader. There's smoking or steaming, but no fire or flame because the tunnel has no oxygen.
He says this is visual proof the atmosphere is safe.
"You can go in there, they could walk in there tomorrow," he says.
- The access tunnel or "drift" to the mine is 2.3km long.
- In the video the Mines Rescue workers go through the temporary portal - and 2 metres into the tunnel.
- Mines Rescue later put a new concrete seal at 170m.
- And have confirmed workers have explored as far as 300m.
- The robot in the video goes 1570m to where Russell Smith's loader was.
- The last 730 metres is the most important - it is unexplored.
- There is an electrical substation that could show what happened. And Daniel Rockhouse escaped from here.
The families have always believed there could be some bodies left in this section.
And Mr Smith believes there are too.
"I'm not too sure of the distance, they're only a matter of four or 500 metres in front of me," he says.
He believes they were men from the main part of the mine who got into the tunnel - and were left there.
He says the video is more evidence going up the tunnel is safe.
The families say the video was kept from them - but Mr English still insists that they saw it.
"Get the truth out. The Government doesn't want it, but they've got to go up there and get the truth out. And go up there and get them. The bodies," Mr Smith says.
The truth - still inside Pike River.