'The man in the mountain': Pike River child visits resting place of father she never met

A seven-year-old girl has visited the resting place of her father for the very first time, at the Pike River mine.

A ceremony for the families of the 29 miners lost in the mine disaster was held on Friday, even though a planned re-entry to the mine was deemed too dangerous and was delayed.

Erika Ufer's father, Josh, is one of the lost miners and this ceremony marked the first time the young girl had seen the place where he still lies.

"Hi my name is Erika, I am seven and turning eight in 19 days," she told Newshub.

The explosion in the mine took place eight-and-a-half years ago, meaning Erika has grown up entirely without a father. Her mother, Rachelle Weaver, was three months pregnant at the time. 

Erika's grandmother, Jo, says the child has helped her grieve the loss of her son.

"Erika is a blessing, a little piece of him and that's just really helped me get through the last eight years; as well knowing that there is that little part of him in her and I can see it.

"Her personality is very similar to his in a lot of ways, the odd look even - I go 'that is a Josh look'."

Weaver says Erika calls her father 'the man in the mountains' after the Paparoa range the mine is located within.

"Josh is her father and she knows him as the man in the mountain because that is where he is, a beautiful location," Weaver said.

The visit was also a chance for the family to bring an Australian flag to the ceremony to represent Ufer's homeland, though the delay to the mine's re-entry was a disappointing development for them.

"I am disappointed of course, after travelling all the way over here," Jo said.

"The seal is not going to breach today but just being here with everyone has been great."


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