Welsh mining tragedy: Three bodies found but search for fourth man continues
Published 16/09/2011 | 08:00
A third body has been found in the flooded colliery in south Wales.
The news came as rescuers continued to search the pit, where four men went missing yesterday.
Phillip Hill, Charles Breslin, David Powell and Garry Jenkins were trapped when Gleision Colliery near Swansea became flooded.
The three bodies have yet to be formally identified.
The discoveries dashed hopes that all four men may have found refuge in an air pocket following the accident.
But the rescue teams were determined to carry on searching in the hope of finding the fourth miner.
At a press conference this afternoon close to the mine entrance, Chris Margetts from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: "The search and rescue operation is still ongoing."
He went on: "The water and oxygen levels are very good but the issue now is debris.
"We're using seismic listening devices so that any noises are investigated."
He explained the progress the search and rescue teams had made and how they have cleared the blockage to get to the main shaft.
However, he said it was a slow process to search the "myriad" of tunnels.
It emerged earlier one of the miners who became trapped yesterday is the father of one of three miners who managed to escape from the drift mine when it flooded.
The alarm was raised at around 9.20am yesterday, after Mr Hill, 45, from Neath, Mr Breslin, 62, Mr Powell, 50, and Mr Jenkins, 39, all from the Swansea Valley, became trapped.
The men - part of a group of seven - were stranded in a tunnel 295ft (90m) underground after a retaining wall holding back a body of water failed, flooding the shaft.
Of the three who escaped, one is now critically ill in hospital. The two other men who were with him emerged largely unharmed and were helping the rescue operation.
Neath MP and former Labour cabinet minister Peter Hain said the families of the men were going through "hell".
He said: "This is a community which has a mining history that goes back generations. There is an inbred support for miners in this kind of predicament and their families.
"Everybody is rallying around but everybody is traumatised because they've not known this horror for a generation or more."
Superintendent Phil Davies paid tribute to the rescue effort.
He said there was a lot of "emotion" among crews and they were very "passionate" about the operation.
Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan met the families of the miners affected by the incident.
"This is a distressing day for all involved," she said afterwards.
"This tragedy has touched everyone in what is a very tight-knit community. Having just met the families, I know they take great comfort in the messages of support they have received from not only the UK but across the world.
"Our thoughts are with the families at this extremely difficult time as they anxiously await news about their loved ones.
"I would like to pay tribute to the efforts of the whole community and organisations such as the Red Cross and the WRVS who have pulled together to provide valuable comfort to all concerned.
"This is an active, ongoing, highly professional operation, involving all emergency services.
"Their hard work and round-the-clock efforts are ensuring that everything possible is being done.
"I have assured the families that across Government we have worked to ensure that the rescue services have all the support they need."
She said there would be a "full investigation" into the accident.
First Minister Carwyn Jones expressed his sadness at news of a third body being found in the mine.
He said: "My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with all of the families as this horrifying news filters through.
"I would like to pay tribute to the tireless work the rescue teams have done and continue to do throughout this incident.
"The people of Wales, and indeed people across the world, stand together in solidarity with the families through this terrible tragedy."