Tragic end to search for miners as four found dead
The bodies of four miners trapped in a flooded Welsh colliery were found yesterday, dashing their families' hopes that they would be brought out alive and confirming the worst mining disaster in the region for a generation.
Rescuers discovered the last of the miners yesterday evening after two days spent searching the colliery's many tunnels.
Police immediately launched an investigation to establish what led to the deaths of David Powell (50), Phillip Hill (45), Charles Breslin (62) and Garry Jenkins (39).
Peter Hain, the local MP for Neath and a former Welsh secretary, spoke for the devastated community of Pontardawe, near Swansea.
"This is the one end that we all feared," he said. "We have seen extraordinary courage shown by the families right through the night in torturous hours of waiting, and then finding out first that one miner had been found and not knowing who it was and then another.
"We can't even imagine what they have been through. This has been a stab right through the heart of the local community. There is a long tradition of mining here but nobody expected the tragedies that happened in past generations would happen today."
The dead men had been part of a team of seven working a seam 300ft below ground in the Gleision Colliery on Thursday morning when they accidentally breached the walls of an adjacent mine that was flooded. Water rushed in, blocking the exit of four of the men and forcing the others to scramble to safety.
After the alarm was sounded, more than 50 rescue workers headed to the hillside to try to bring the others to the surface.
At first hopes were high after two of the survivors, who included the son of one of the trapped men, said they thought their workmates may have found sanctuary.
But as four powerful pumps removed water from the drift mine, which stretches around a third of a mile into the hillside, rescuers began to discover bodies. The first was found in the early hours of yesterday and the others throughout the day.
The deaths marked a return of the sort of mining disaster that it was thought had been consigned to history. The most recent significant mining accident in Britain was in March 1979 at Golborne colliery, near Wigan. Three men were killed there when a fireball shot 200 yards along a tunnel.
The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said prayers would be said in churches across the country tomorrow for the miners. (© Daily Telegraph, London)