Welsh mine rescue: Third Gleision miner found dead
- 16 September 2011
- From the section Wales
A third miner has been confirmed as dead as the search continues for one more man still trapped in a Swansea Valley colliery.
The men became trapped 90m (295ft) below in the flooded Gleision Colliery near Pontardawe on Thursday morning.
They are Charles Breslin, 62; David Powell, 50; Garry Jenkins, 39; and Phillip Hill, 45. None of the bodies have been recovered.
Prime Minister David Cameron said it was a "desperately sad situation".
"It's clear to me that everything that could be done is being done. The anguish of the families is intense," he said.
"There's going to be desperate sorrow."
Police said the families were in a state of "extreme grief".
Three other miners managed to escape as the flood water engulfed the drift mine when a retaining wall holding back a body of water underground failed.
Two of them have been assisting rescuers, while another was being treated in hospital.
Supt Phil Davies of South Wales Police said: "All our sympathy goes out to the families in what is an incredibly difficult situation," he said.
"I will reiterate the fact that this is still an ongoing search and rescue operation and all emergency services are fully committed to getting these miners out as soon as possible."
He added: "There is a lot of emotion here, this is a passionate rescue attempt, we care about these people."
The body of one miner was located at the bottom of the main shaft at Cilybebyll in the early hours of Friday and has now been recovered.
The second body was found in a different part of the mine at 12:15 BST, believed to be close to where he was working, and has not yet been formally identified.
Police confirmed at about 15:00 BST that a third body had been found.
Chris Margetts, from Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: "The search and rescue operation is still ongoing.
"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.
"Access has been gained into the main shaft at the bottom, we have cleared the blockage and got mines rescue crews who are able to enter and start searching the myriad of tunnels and offshoots of the main mine.
"They have to dig through silt because there is lots of debris to wade through."
Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan, whose father was a miner, said he knew exactly what was involved in the rescue operation.
"I remember from my boyhood the odd tragic accident," he said.
"These are close-knit communities, they rally round, these families won't be on their own," he added.
"They really offer great support to one another".
When the second body was found, Neath MP Peter Hain said it was "a terrible situation getting worse".
"It's just got worse and been a terrible blow to the families," he said.
Reacting to the news of a third body, Wales' First Minister Carwyn Jones 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."
The miner currently being treated in hospital had walked from the pit to tell rescuers of dragging and swimming through the water to the mine entrance.
The miner had swallowed pit slurry and it is understood he collapsed before being taken to Morriston hospital.
Meanwhile, Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said she will be calling a civil contingency meeting in the cabinet office.
She said Prime Minister David Cameron had been in contact while on his way back from Libya.
Local councillor Rosalyn Davies, who had been with the families gathered at the nearby Rhos Community Centre, said: "They have been coping quite well up until the last death, but it looks like they're giving up now."
'Working very hard'
Mr Margetts said it was a very "delicate" operation as care had to be taken not to damage the mine's structure. But he said the water levels are receding. Pumps are continuing to remove water from the mine and oxygen is being pumped in.
He said the rescue crews have now gained enough access to get teams down in wetsuits to start the excavation process.
They are continuing to pump out water, excavating the blockages and shoring up the tunnels.
"It is slow and it is steady, but as we're aware with previous incidents, these incidents take time," he said. "We need to do it properly.
Gleision Colliery, in operation since 1993, works coal under a very steep hillside above the banks of the river Tawe.
It is a small drift mine - a mine cut into the side of a hill, where the coal seam is accessed by walking in.