Mine tragedy inquest adjourned

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The Independent Online

The inquest into the deaths of four men who died in a tragic colliery disaster following the flooding of the mine in south Wales was opened and adjourned today.

Phillip Hill, 44, Garry Jenkins, 39, David Powell, 50, and Charles Breslin, 62, died when water engulfed the Gleision Colliery in Cilybebyll, Pontardawe, earlier this month.

The corner spoke of the "sad circumstances" that led to the men's deaths.

Their families did not attend the inquest which lasted just a few minutes.

It was adjourned until a later date by Swansea Coroner Phillip Rogers.

At the inquest at the Guildhall in Swansea, the coroner issued interim death certificates for the families so that the men's funerals can go ahead this week.

The inquest heard the cause of the miners' deaths, which were first made public last week by South Wales Police, was exposure to flooded pit contents under pressure.

During the brief hearing the coroner said he would adjourn proceedings for the receipt of further reports.

Detailed examination results relating to each man are likely to take a further eight to 12 weeks, South Wales Police have said.

The tragedy at Gleision occurred on September 15, when emergency services were called to the remote drift mine.

Three miners managed to escape when flood water engulfed the pit's shaft after a retaining wall holding back a body of water failed.

It had been hoped the miners who were unable to get out might have found refuge in an air pocket following the accident.

However, after a major search and rescue operation, their bodies were found close together - one on the exit side of the blockage and the other three in the area where they had been working.

Mr Rogers said: "I'm sure we are all still very mindful of the sad circumstances and the effect on the families of the four deceased gentlemen and the local community."

A thorough examination of the scene will continue at the Swansea Valley colliery for several weeks.

Police said they are working with the Health and Safety Executive to investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident.

Two of the three men who escaped have been named locally as Daniel Powell, son of victim David Powell, who was said to be the site's maintenance engineer, and 56-year-old Malcolm Fyfield, who is believed to be the pit manager.

Last week Mr Breslin's family described the hours of waiting for news as the most "harrowing of our lives".

They added that "Charles was a hard working family man" and a "good father".

Mr Breslin's family said: "He had been a coal miner for most of his working life, a job which his father had done before him, and had worked at most of the small mines in the area during his life."

They added: "Charlie, you will be sadly missed by all who knew you."

The family of Mr Hill added their "heartfelt thanks" to all friends and the communities of Rhos, Pontardawe and Resolven for their support following the loss of his life at Gleision Colliery.

They said: "The family in particular wish to take the opportunity to thank the Mines Rescue teams who worked tirelessly to bring our Philip home safely but sadly in vain."

Mr Hill's family said their lives had been enriched by his presence and that they were now attempting to grieve over their loss.

Mr Jenkins' family also thanked all those involved in the rescue attempt and the support they have received from the community.

"We wish to say that Garry was special in every way," they said. "He was always happy, hard-working and never without a smile on his face. He would help anybody he could in any way.

"He will be missed so much as an adored partner, most special son, best brother in the world, a devoted father, grandson, uncle, great uncle, nephew and best friend."

The family of Mr Powell also expressed their "deep sadness" at his loss.

They said: "Dai was our life and soul, he brought joy and fun to everyone he met.

"We miss you Dai, you were a proud collier and man. You will never be forgotten. "

In the meantime, a fund launched to help the grieving families of the miners has continued to gain unprecedented public support.

Neath MP Peter Hain, one of the appeal's co-founders, said: "It has exceeded all expectations. Incredibly, we will be able to give over £200,000 to the families."

Source: PA