Pike River: Mines rescue expert says salvaging bodies can be done despite police saying it's not possible

A mines rescue expert says the bodies of the men found within the Pike River Mine can be recovered.

That's despite police saying on Wednesday that isn't possible, and that they were never going to be able to get too far into the mine.

Families of the 29 men who died went into a closed-door meeting with police on Wednesday night looking for a clearer picture of what happened to their men - and they were shown the clearest yet.

"In places it's total destruction, really. There's pipes, there's hoses, there's chains, big steel-looking objects," says Anna Osbourne, whose husband Milton died in the mine.

"I've seen a wee bit of destruction in an area where I thought there was none," says Rowdy Durbridge, whose son Dan died.

Detective Superintendent Peter Read flew in from Christchurch for Wednesday's meeting, which ran twice as long as scheduled.

"I didn't see any images of body parts or people," Durbridge says.

Police haven't shown the families those images yet, but Newshub has been told they show self-rescuers were deployed. Self-rescuers are designed to provide a miner with breathable air for up to half an hour.

When asked if images showed the self-rescue devices, police wouldn't talk about it.

"I'm not going to go into that right now," Detective Superintendent Peter Read said on Wednesday.

Pike investigator Richard Healey says they've had detailed information of the images for over a month.

"It leads us to believe that the images give a clear indication that the bodies that were found are actually the bodies of survivors, as in people who survived the first blast," he says.

Police say the bodies they've located cannot be recovered, but experts say it's possible that they're only 570 metres from the roof fall where re-entry efforts stopped.

However, it's also possible to go in by boring a larger hole above where the remains were found, which would only be 100 metres away from them.

"The whole mine can be covered with a sheet about 500 by 350 metres. It is not a large mine," Healey says.

International mines rescue expert Brian Robinson has been involved in Pike since day one. 

"They've said it's both unsafe and would cost a lot of money, obviously. The unsafe part is the untrue bit, they said just going into the drift would be unsafe but that's been proven uncategorically incorrect."

Without permission to go further, a gate to the mine is as close as families can get to their men right now. But the discovery of remains gives some hope that maybe they can get even closer.

The borehole investigation will continue until the end of the year, and Healey believes more drilling would uncover more bodies and more reasons to re-enter.

"As far as we know, there's nothing blocking access to the ABM [alpine bolter miner]."

Except for the fact that the mine has been sealed.