Monday, November 29, 2010

Pike River Mine disaster

I think most of the world is aware that New Zealand had a mining disaster in the past week with twenty-nine miners killed.

New Zealand is a small country, and the West Coast of the South Island is a tight-knit community with a unique character. Coasters have a name for being very self-sufficient, relaxed, and not always terribly bothered about conforming to the letter of the law in all circumstances. A bit like Burt Munro was.

This is Kevin Ryan …

… he is perhaps an extreme example of the stereotypical West Coast resident. He races every year at the Burt Munro Challenge, and is one of the very few people who races in every event. He usually wins at least one class in at least one event, and is also his own mechanic. Two years ago Kevin won the "Munro Family" trophy, a prize donated by Burt's daughters and son and given by them to the rider who most epitomises the true "Burt Munro spirit". Last year he refused it, saying someone else needed a turn.

Kevin was meant to pick up a mate on his way to the Challenge, but the mate couldn't come. He was waiting for news of his son, who was, and still is, down the mine.

This year the Munros again chose Kevin Ryan to receive the Munro Family prize, and this year he accepted it - on behalf of the population of Greymouth and the families of the lost miners.

Kevin Ryan with the Munro family

The prizegiving ceremony was chock-a-block with big tough motorcycling men, and I doubt that there was a dry eye in the place as Kevin gave his acceptance speech.

There have now been four explosions in the mine and it will be some time before the bodies of the miners are retrieved, if they ever can be.

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