Ex-Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn reflects on Pike River tragedy, discovery of bodies

Leah Panapa 18/11/2021

LISTEN: There was unexpected news on Wednesday as we learned two, possibly three, human remains were found inside the Pike River Mine.

It's almost 11 years to the day since the explosion which killed 29 men at 3:29 pm on Friday, November 19, 2010.

Six boreholes were being drilled into the mine as part of a police investigation to try and prove or disprove some of the theories raised during the royal commission of inquiry as to what triggered the first explosion, and possibly find the cause and time of death.

At the heart of the community as the tragic events at the mine unfolded was former Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn. It's a tragedy he says he will never forget.

"We were used to disasters in coal mines, it's the nature of the business. But you don't expect these types of things to come along on your watch and that's what happened," he told Magic Talk.

Kokshoorn says while the discovery of human remains would have come as a "shock" to the families of the victims, they would have known at some point bodies would be found.

"We know that the 29 miners were still in there beyond the rockfall and we know that the police were doing drilling, so it was obvious at some point, if you drill, you are going to come across the remains of some of the bodies," he said.

New footage has provided a much clearer image from inside the mineshaft of which previous recordings, which were grainy, could not show.

But Kokshoorn doesn't think it will assist in helping police in finally charging someone.

"I think a prosecution will be extremely hard at this point, after 11 years," he told Magic Talk.

Sonya Rockhouse, the mother of Pike River victim Ben Rockhouse, said the announcement was a "bit surreal".

"To believe that actually they did find something because we'd all but given up hope," she told Lloyd Burr Live.

Listen to the full interview with Tony Kokshoorn above.

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