Daniel Rockhouse: “No one was there to meet them…”

Written By: - Date published: 10:19 am, January 1st, 2015 - 21 comments
Categories: health and safety, Mining, workers' rights - Tags:

A TS post with the title “No one was there to meet them – no one went to help them” was high on the list of one’s being viewed today.  It’s not a recent post.

It is a July 2013 post by Helen Kelly, about Daniel Rockhouse who survived the Pike River Mine disaster, and then rescued Russell Smith. Yesterday Daniel Rockhouse got a bravery award. TVNZ reported:

Pike River Mine survivor Daniel Rockhouse has been awarded The New Zealand Bravery Medal for rescuing another miner in the disaster.

Helen Kelly’s 2013 post is here and is an important reminder of the what happened at the mine. Her post begins:

I am doing a speech on health and safety tomorrow. Been thinking about Pike. Bernie Monk rang yesterday. Bridges is in Gisborne Herald today saying all the reports needed on Forestry have been written. In my speech tomorrow I Will read this bit out from the Inquiry into Pike – it is as powerful as story as there is against his complacency. It should be part of every school curriculum. Those that listened to the victim impact statements for Pike last week will have heard Daniel Rockhouse say sometimes he wished he had died in Pike River Mine (his loved brother Ben did!).

Daniel Rockhouse

36. Nearing 3.45pm Daniel Rockhouse was in the drift en route to stub 2 to uplift the gravel required for road repairs at the ABM worksite. He stopped at the diesel bay at the pit bottom in stone to fill his loader with diesel and water. The loader was parked with the engine running. While he was turning on a water valve there was a bright white flash and he felt an extreme pressure blast. Felled by the explosion, Daniel Rockhouse hit his head and ended up lying on his back. His first impression was that the loader had blown up, but he then realised that the engine was still running, although spluttering. He turned if off. Small amounts of debris fell from the roof and the ribs, although there was no cave-in. Within seconds a pungent strong smell, and dense smoke, reached the area. The atmosphere was warm and breathing became difficult.

Read the rest of the post at the link.

21 comments on “Daniel Rockhouse: “No one was there to meet them…””

  1. RedLogix 1

    Daniel Rockhouse doesn’t feel like one – but his actions in getting himself AND Smith out were heroic. It’s a remarkable story.

  2. Colonial Rawshark 2

    Too many Kiwis still turning up for a day at work, making money for someone else, and then dying/nearly dying for it. With no one being surprised that it happens. It’s a sickness in this society which needs to be changed.

    • Tracey 2.1

      yes. much being made of 26 drownings in 2014 but we still dont care enough about the deaths and maimings amongst those trying to get their daily bread.

      if news bulletins started including a list of every death and serious injury in a workplace every day…

  3. Gruntie 3

    All Work related deaths ought to be reported like the road toll – not just accidents but including deaths related to exposure to hazards such as asbestos – would be shocking to see it is I suspect higher than the road toll and just as preventable. NZ work related death rate is 4 times greater than in Uk

    • Olwyn 3.1

      All Work related deaths ought to be reported like the road toll.

      So they should, but there seems to be a tacit agreement not to look too closely at the threats to life and limb wherever the profit motive comes into things. It is OK to talk about threats that involve chiding the population and placing restrictions on them, but not about the threats that would mean protecting them from corporate exploitation. A kerfuffle last night in Gisborne has straightaway meant that there will be alcohol restrictions at next year’s festival. A disaster like Pike River evoked nothing like the same sense of legislative urgency – no statements like “This tragic loss of life means we must get the charge of corporate manslaughter into our law books at once.”

      Perhaps it would be a good idea to publish the numbers of work-related deaths through blogs, as it might then force the media to take notice.

    • McFlock 3.2

      That’s a fine idea.
      Probably find someone’s been plugging it for years, but employers and an employer-friendly government have been keeping a lid on it.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 3.2.1

        What’s employer-friendly about rewarding murderous cowboys? It just drives good business under.

        • McFlock

          Well, friendly for managers in a quartely-performance bonus cycle, anyway.
          Whittal’s predecessors did okay out of it, and he couldn’t pass the hot potato on quickly enough. I.e. he didn’t take the money and move on before people died.

  4. Weepus beard 4

    “No one was there to meet them.”

    One sentence says it all but I bet it didn’t register in the media’s important quotes of 2013.

    And still we are frog marched down the path of industry self-regulation by the current government.

  5. Murray Rawshark 5

    I’m still disgusted that the mine was operating like that. The fact that even after the explosion, phone calls were not logged and no one was at the exit to meet the two miners makes me feel crook. Industries that behave like this need to be regulated out of existence.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1

      In fairness, some of the most trenchant (and certainly some of the most authoritative) criticism comes from within the industry.

      • Murray Rawshark 5.1.1

        It is not a surprise that different companies within one area will take different approaches. Nor is it a surprise that, after an avoidable disaster, other companies will criticise what happened. It still happened, and in their industry that was supposedly self regulating. Where were there trenchant and authoritative criticisms before the fact?

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          The Royal Commission of Inquiry established that PRC ignored safety warning from multiple industry sources including its own contractors and employees.

          So authoritative, yes. As for trenchant, does “I’m well aware of the pressure we’re under as a company but this should not be the pressure that possibly one day causes us a serious incident.” qualify, given that the “pressure” in question is to put coal production before safety?

  6. vto 6

    Pike River is the pig-ugly face of the men of business in New Zealand. They deserve no respect.

    Mean nasty greedy uncaring cheap and deadly.

    How on earth can it be that not a single person has stood up and taken responsibility for what is out and out human folly and error….

    Bill Birch for canning the mining inspectors and introducing self-regulation…
    John Dow and his band on the “Board” for running a deadly operation…
    Peter Whittal for managing a deadly operation…

    Each one of them is scum

  7. Jenny Kirk 7

    This is an important story and speech from Helen Kelly. If it wasn’t for The Standard highlighting it, how many of us would know the details of what was NOT available in that mine – when required for emergencies, So – thanks to both Helen Kelly and TS for reminding us, and for getting it out into the greater public arena.

    • mac1 7.1

      It certainly makes a case for worker involvement in safety decisions, for strong unions, and for effective oversight from outside. Some owners and managers cannot be trusted, as with some employees. Anyone with a sense of history or who reads socially aware authors like Steinbeck, or Jamie Lee Burke or James Elroy, should know that.

      The second lesson for all this is how we should all be angry about this story, and to allow that anger to fuel our need and work towards a society where all people are paramount in health, safety, and general issues of justice, to not accept what has happened as usual, to not be fatalistic but proactive and hopeful for change.

  8. Ian Grant 8

    Rebecca Macfie deserves credit too

    A must read for anyone interested in H&S and corporate greed in NZ

  9. Rosemary McDonald 9

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