2 Bodies Found Decade After Mine Explosion Killed 29, 'Too Dangerous' to Retrieve Them

New Zealand police said they found at least two bodies Wednesday from a methane explosion in a coal mine that killed 29 workers more than a decade ago, the Associated Press reported.

Police Detective Superintendent Peter Read said they located at least two bodies and possibly a third after they sent a camera down a newly dug hole. He said the bodies were at the far end of the Park River Mine where methane levels are still high. They are unable to recover the remains because the mine is still to dangerous to enter.

Read said they haven't been able to identify the bodies yet, although they're working with forensic experts to see if it's a possibility. He said they had previously identified the six or eight miners believed to have been working in the area at the time.

"This is only two days away from the 11th anniversary of the mine explosion, and we'd like to acknowledge the families of all the men," Read told reporters. "It's a really stark reminder of the pain and the loss."

Anna Osborne, whose husband Milton was killed in the explosion, said it was unfortunate that the bodies couldn't be retrieved.

"They all died together and they will all stay together," she said.

An earlier investigation concluded that the Pike River Coal company had exposed miners to unacceptable risks in an attempt to meet financial targets. The report said the company ignored 21 warnings that methane gas had accumulated to explosive levels before the disaster.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Pike River Mine, New Zealand, Mine Explosion
Above, flames burn from a ventilation shaft above the Pike River mine on November 30, 2010, where 29 miners are fatally trapped, in Greymouth, New Zealand. More than a decade after a methane explosion killed 29 workers at the mine, police said Wednesday that they found at least two of the bodies thanks to new camera images. McGregor/NZPA/AP Photo

Police have been investigating the disaster for years, with some family members of the miners hoping they will eventually file criminal charges.

Read said imaging technology had improved markedly since the disaster, which helped them make the discovery. The bodies will help their investigation.

Read said police wouldn't be releasing the images out of respect to the families and declined to describe the conditions of the bodies.

"It's what you might expect after 11 years, but I'm not really going into any details of what the images show," he said.

Osborne said she had been preparing for the 11th anniversary and was initially shocked by the announcement. She wondered at first if one of the bodies could be her husband but then realized he would have been elsewhere in the mine.

She said she felt some pride because the families had pushed hard for authorities to re-enter a safer part of the mine, which they had finally done in 2019. She said that helped reinvigorate the police investigation.

The company, which went bankrupt, didn't contest labor violation charges against it.

Labor violation charges against former chief executive Peter Whittall were dismissed after he and the company made a financial settlement, a development that angered many of the grieving families.

New Zealand's Supreme Court later ruled that the settlement was unlawful.

Coal Mine Explosion, New Zealand,
More than a decade after a methane explosion killed 29 workers at the New Zealand coal mine, police said Wednesday that they found at least two of the bodies thanks to new camera images. Above, workers walk past a bouquet of flowers for victims of mine explosion at the Pike River mine in Greymouth, New Zealand, on June 28, 2011. Ian McGregor/Pool Photo/AP Photo