A robot sent into the Pike River Mine drift days after the 2010 explosion has been recovered by the reentry team, bringing the loved ones of the men who never came home closer to finding answers.
The military robot was lost in the drift on November 24, just five days after the mine exploded, killing 29 people. A total of two robots have been recovered so far.
Pike River widow Anna Osborne says the robot's recovery shows how well the reentry is working.
"For years we were told that the drift was too dangerous to enter. This shows that we can get in and we can get evidence out," she says.
"The last time this robot saw the light of day we were being told by the mine management that our men would still be alive down there eating their crib. It was the start of years of lies that are finally being put to rest by this recovery."
Sonya Rockhouse, whose son Ben died in the tragedy, says the progress into the mine's reentry is welcomed by all the families.
There are three more robots to be pulled from the mine, along with a loader from Russell Smith who survived the explosion. Then the recovery moves into "unseen territory", including the room that contains electrical gear and more potential evidence for the families.
"This is what we fought for, it's the chance to get to the truth of what killed the men and boys we loved and hopefully to hold someone accountable for it," Rockhouse says.
Rowdy Durbridge, who worked in the mine and whose son died in the explosion, says the recovery team are "doing justice" to the people who died.
"We've all known for years that we could get into the drift safely, but now to see these boys getting the job done, it makes me proud we stuck to our guns."
The Pike River Recovery Agency's website projects by the end of June, the recovery team would've travelled 1000 metres into the 2300 metre-long drift.