Josh Ufer, with his pregnant partner Rachelle Weaver, is one of the 29 miners trapped following the explosion at Pike River Coal Mine in New Zealand.
Josh Ufer, with his pregnant partner Rachelle Weaver, is one of the 29 miners trapped following the explosion at Pike River Coal Mine in New Zealand. Contributed New Zealand Herald

CQ man trapped in NZ coal mine

SUNDAY 1AM: One of the two Australians known to be missing in New Zealand is former Middlemount man Josh Ufer, 27, the Herald Sun has reported.

The identity of the other missing Australian is not yet known as 29 men remain trapped in the coal mine following a large explosion at the site on Friday afternoon.

The Herald Sun reported that Mr Ufer's pregnant girlfriend Rachelle Weaver was due to give birth in May.

The paper reported that Ms Weaver's mother, Nancye Langley, said her daughter , was "trying to cope as best she could".

"She's distraught and waiting for any kind of news just like everyone else," Ms Langley said.

The paper reported Mr Ufer has been contracted by Lucas Drilling Company as an underground supervisor for the past nine months.

His mother, Joannae, has flown to New Zealand from Queensland while his father, Karl, who also works in the mining industry, was flying in from China.

"Josh is determined and works hard. He is strong and would punch through the rock to get out of there. If anyone is to survive, it will be him," one friend told the paper.

Ms Langley told The Age  Mr Ufer was a "really, really lovely young man. There is no doubt that Josh loves Rachelle completely and she loves him completely."


RESCUE efforts for 29 trapped miners continue to be hampered as air samples taken from the New Zealand mine indicate there is still a risk of further explosions.

The New Zealand Herald reported Pike River chief executive Peter Whittall saying a rig will today attempt to drill 150 metres into the Pike River mine to take air samples.

He expects the drilling to break through this evening.


Whittall said there was still heat being generated which was creating the dangerous gases.

"The samples we were able to take yesterday afternoon show that those gases are downward trending.

"They do show that there is something happening underground - the extent of which we don't know, but we do know that the samples we did take yesterday afternoon show that the event or the heating was reducing rather than increasing, so that is good."

Tasman police district commander Superintendent Gary Knowles said he was not prepared to put the rescuers at risk.

"I'm not going to put 16 men underground to effect a half-arsed rescue," Mr Knowles said. "We are still focusing on a rescue operation. I would like to get underground and get these men out."

"If I send people underground, we could lose lives."



Saturday: AN attempt to rescue 29 Pike River miners, trapped underground since an explosion in the New Zealand coal mine yesterday afternoon, is still hours away.

The New Zealand Herald reported that police had released a statement saying four air quality tests over vent shafts at the remote south island mine have now been completed.

Two of the miners who were in the Pike River Coal mine at the time of the explosion on Friday were Australian, chief executive Peter Whittall said on Saturday.

The nationalities of eight of the 29 miners were unknown, Fairfax Radio reported. 

Tasman Police District Commander Gary Knowles said the air tests were being analysed and "we are yet to receive the results".

"Until we receive this information no decisions will be made on when a mine rescue team might be able to access the tunnel."

A media briefing is expected at 2pm (NZ time) Saturday.

Confusion has surrounded when a rescue bid may be made, but Pike River chairman John Dow says the rescue effort will not get under way for hours.

The New Zealand Herald reported that he could not give an accurate time frame of when a rescue would begin because Pike River is uncertain of when they will be able to gather suitable air quality samples.

By daybreak, no communication had been received from any of the missing workers, the company said, and rescuers were unable to enter the mine because of the risk of a buildup of explosive methane gas.

"There could be another explosion,'' said mine safety expert David Feickert, who noted that officials don't what caused the original ignition, and rescuers will enter the mine only when it is safe.

Peter Whittall, Pike River Coal Ltd.'s chief executive, said officials would have enough analysis in six to eight hours to decide whether a rescue team can go underground, adding that the missing miners would have to deal with such hazards as air pollution, high levels of methane and carbon dioxide, and low levels of oxygen.

Each miner carried 30 minutes of oxygen, enough to reach oxygen stores in the mine that would allow them to survive for "several days,'' said Pike River chairman John Dow.


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