Ufer's partner keep pit-top vigil

JOSH UFER's family and pregnant girlfriend maintained a pit-top vigil yesterday as his former home town of Middlemount waited for news in a state of numb resignation.

The 25-year-old drilling supervisor used to work at the Grasstree mine, part of the Cap Coal underground operation at Middlemount.

Late yesterday his fate was unknown as a delicate rescue operation was hampered by dangerous conditions at the Pike River Coal Mine in New Zealand.

Teams of rescuers gathered at the pit were unable to enter because of the risk of a further gas explosion.

Police there yesterday named a second missing Queenslander as 49-year-old father-of-two William Joynson from the Fraser Coast.

Mr Joynson's relatives travelled to the mine, on South Island, yesterday to support his wife, Kim, and sons, aged 10 and 13.

At the Middlemount IGA yesterday, staff described the town as tense.

“Everyone is on standby waiting for news. Everyone is just numb.”

Rachelle Weaver, who is expecting Josh's baby in May, is from Greymouth on the South Island's west coast where Friday's blast at the local coal mine has stunned the community.

Steve Smyth, the district president of the CFMEU mining union in Queensland, yesterday said the accident showed once again that underground mining was one of the world's most dangerous occupations.

“There is an understanding in Central Queensland communities that what happened in New Zealand could happen here at any time.

“This is the reality when you are working in a hostile and volatile environment.”

He said he believed Josh's family would find a great level of support once they returned to Australia, whatever the outcome.

“Mining people all over the world look after each other as a matter of course. People are ready to help,” he said.



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