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Family of miner killed in rockfall faces agonising wait for his body

THE family of a miner who was killed in a tragic work accident face an agonising wait for his remains to be recovered.

Efforts to recover the body of father-of-two Mario Francis (49), who was killed following the collapse of part of a mine, have been hampered by fears of a further rockfall.

Rescue workers have spent more than two days trying to recover the remains of Mr Francis, who died on Thursday afternoon at the Lisheen Mine in Co Tipperary.

The mine's general manager, John Elmes, said: "I can't say how long it will take (to recover the body)."

He added that Mr Francis had been working around 200 metres below ground level and that the safety of the rescue crew in the delicate operation was of the highest importance.

Mr Francis was originally from the Philippines but had been living in Urlingford and working in the mine for the past 12 years. He was driving a vehicle used to scoop ore into transport trucks when a rockfall trapped him, and he sustained fatal crush injuries. No one else was injured in the incident.

Mine rescue and the emergency services were called after Mr Francis was found but paramedics pronounced him dead a short time later.

Mr Elmes extended his deepest sympathies to the family of the miner yesterday.

"We're very, very shocked and it's a terrible loss," he said.

He stressed that the incident was a localised accident.

"This is a mine that is operating to the highest international standards of safety. Any mine will have planned areas where there will be rockfalls as we mine out the ore. This was a completely unplanned occurrence," he added.

Unstable

A recovery operation to safely move Mr Francis's body and take it to the surface was under way for much of yesterday.

Initial attempts on Thursday night were called off around midnight because the mine shaft was considered too unstable. A short Mass was held at the site yesterday for family, friends and colleagues. Mr Francis's wife was too distressed to comment yesterday.

In a statement, the company said the mine would remain closed until further notice.

The incident comes just over two years after mine captain Joe Fallon, from Two-Mile-Borris near Thurles but living in Callan, died in an explosion at Lisheen. An inquest held last February found Mr Fallon died from injuries "consistent with self-inflicted death".

Lisheen Mine started operations in 1999 and is owned by Indian mining and metals company Vedanta Resources.

It is due to close by the end of 2015 and employs 370 people, most living in Kilkenny and Tipperary.

The Health and Safety Authority, gardai and the company that owns the mine have each launched separate investigations.

Irish Independent