New Zealand mine disaster: Profiles

The 29 men trapped underground in a New Zealand coal mine have been declared dead after a second explosion rocked the mine. The country's prime minister has called their deaths a national tragedy. Here are some of the stories of the men we know most about.

Joseph Ray Dunbar

The youngest of the miners, 17-year-old Joseph was, his mother said, so keen to start his new job that he persuaded his boss to let him start early, even staying home on the night of his birthday to conserve his energies ahead of his first day.

Image caption Joseph stayed in the night of his birthday to be fresh for work the next day

"His mates wanted him to go out that night, but he said, 'I'm staying in. I have work in the morning'. He was so chuffed," Philippa told the New Zealand Herald.

Having previously worked in a supermarket, he saw getting the job in the mine as the beginning of a career and could not wait to turn 17 so he could begin work.

"He set himself a goal, and achieving that goal meant everything to him. It meant he was going to travel with the company, take him different places.

"He was absolutely stoked. He was excited, he was ecstatic."

Joseph's mother told TVNZ network that her son had given up drugs and begun exercising in order to meet the medical requirements needed to work in the mine.

His schoolfriends have recounted how he was the joker of the pack in the classroom. Philippa too described her son as a funny, cheeky, kind, caring and loyal boy.

"Joseph was different. It was the making of him. And to see him as happy and proud as what he was before he went down there, that's what stays with you."

Michael Monk

The 23-year-old was described by his family as a loving son, brother, partner and friend.

Image caption Michael was a keen rugby player

"He was proud to be a qualified builder and his attention to detail and the high standards he set himself were highly valued by all who employed him," his family told the New Zealand Herald.

"For such a young man this 23-year-old had many ambitions and big plans for a bright future.

"He was a great saver and was paying off a section [plot of land] and looking forward to building his own home and travelling overseas with his long-term partner, Gemma."

A keen rugby player, Michael played for the West Coast and was described as a player "who never gave up without a fight".

He had worked at the Pike River mine as a building contractor for past six months and also as a barman at his family's Paroa Hotel.

"He was always there for his family and his mates and his unswerving loyalty and wicked sense of humour will never be forgotten."

Malcolm Campbell

The 25-year-old had travelled around the world from St Andrews, in Scotland, to work in New Zealand.

He had found love too and was due to marry his Kiwi fiancee Amanda Shields on 18 December.

His father, also called Malcolm, told the Daily Mail newspaper his son had worked as an apprentice at a Fife paper mill before emigrating to Australia in 2007, where he worked as a miner and developed a love for surfing.

One year on, he moved to New Zealand and took the job at Pike River in the Paparoa Ranges mountains on the west coast of the South Island.

The mine operator Pike River Coal's chief executive Peter Whittall described Malcolm as "a joy to work with".

Blair Sims

Blair, 28, was a talented rugby league player, according to the New Zealand Herald and had been named West Coast player of the year for the past two seasons.

Described as an "absolute try-scoring machine", he was married with two young children.

His team's coach said that he was good enough to have pursued a professional career but had chosen to remain on the West Coast, create a family and become a miner.

"He was always happy. Blair always put in his share and contributed," Phil Campbell said.

Peter James Rodger

Image caption Peter was described as a strong character, who enjoyed his life in New Zealand

Moving to New Zealand two years ago, Peter wanted to be closer to his mother and sister, and lived with his Kiwi girlfriend, Dianne Morris.

He hailed from Perth, in Scotland, and used to work as an oil rig worker. After sustaining a leg injury in the North Sea, he decided to make the shift to mining.

An old school friend, Simon Martin, told Scottish newspaper The Courier that Peter "jumped" at the chance to follow his dream to move to New Zealand.

"When I was wee he used to look out for me," Mr Martin said. "He's a great guy and a great friend. Really funny too."

Mr Martin's wife said that when she and Simon were married he listened to the whole ceremony on the phone as he couldn't be there in person.

Another friend, Gary Fraser, told the BBC Peter was a "strong character" and that this was the second time he had been trapped this year.

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