Exclusive: The forgotten note inside Pike River to the deceased

This is just another day at the office for Dinghy Pattinson, but his job is one the entire country is watching.

He's the chief operating officer of the Pike River Mine recovery mission, and mining is in his blood.

"My father was a coal miner, my grandfather was a coal miner, my great-grandfather was a coal miner," Mr Pattinson told Newshub.

All of them were born on the West Coast, and even the name Mr Pattinson runs in the family.

Being trapped in a mine is part of the bloodline too; his great-grandfather John Pattinson was one of 65 men killed in the 1896 Brunner Coalmine disaster.

"When they recovered his body, they found a Bible on his knee," Mr Pattinson explained.

"He was reading a Bible at the time, and that Bible is in the museum up in Wellington - in the Salvation Army Museum - so it's been there 122 years," Dinghy said.

Dinghy Pattinson with Bernie Monk inside the Pike River mine.
Dinghy Pattinson with Bernie Monk inside the Pike River mine. Photo credit: Newshub

Mr Pattinson has been mining for 42 years - it's all he's ever done since I was 16. He specialises in mine rescues, and knows about underground explosions.

He worked at Huntly West when it blew up in 1992 - nobody died.

And he was ready to go into Pike River to try to get the 29 men after the explosion eight years ago - but wasn't allowed.

Now Mr Pattinson is the second-in-command of the Pike River Recovery Agency, which has a $23 million budget. There is incredible risk and huge pressure.

"I don't think it's a burden at all - I think it's a pleasure," Dinghy told Newshub.

He is running an elite team. This goal of this operation is to recover the 2.3-kilometre access tunnel or drift.

A robot has been 1570 metres in, to where the tunnel is blocked. But the rest of it is unexplored - there could be bodies or evidence there.

Right now only 30 metres into the portal is accessible, but mine rescue workers have been 300m up the mine, and built a wall at 170m to seal it.

As it turns out, Mr Pattinson was one of them - he's part of the team that went 300m into the mine. That team left a note on the wall.

The note reads as follows:

"Colleagues and friends, we have commenced our journey to you. This has been the first step to bring you home to your loved ones.

"We will not rest and we will never give up. We will return. Kia Kaha.

"From NZ Mines Rescue Service and our Australian brothers."

Exclusive: The forgotten note inside Pike River to the deceased
Photo credit: Newshub.

Newshub.

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz