Mine tragedy remembered in prayers

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The Independent Online

Prayers were said in churches across Wales today in memory of the four men killed in a mining accident.

Friends and family of those that died came together in churches across the Swansea Valley, South Wales, to seek spiritual comfort.

The nation's rugby team dedicated its World Cup win in New Zealand to the families of the four men and the Prince of Wales has agreed to become Patron of a appeal fund set up in their memory.

Today people lit candles, wrote condolences and sat in quiet reflection to remember Phillip Hill, 45, Charles Breslin, 62, David Powell, 50, and Garry Jenkins, 39.

Worshippers gathered at St John the Evangelist in Cilybebyll - the church closest to where Thursday's disaster at the Gleision Colliery happened.

In a sermon, the Rev Martyn Perry called on people to put their trust in God - even in difficult times.

"It is easy for us to trust in God when things are going well and life is easy and you can see the pattern," he said.

Rev Perry said everyone's thoughts would be with the families of the four men, as well as five-year-old Harry Patterson, from nearby Alltwen, who died in a tragic accident on Tuesday.

"So there are times when it's difficult and it's against that particular background when it's difficult to trust God that we benefit most when we do and receive comfort and help from God," Rev Perry said.

"So today, that's what we do. We turn to God and ask for his help because we know that after times are difficult the other better times can come."

At St David's Church in Resolven, people came together today to remember the miners - especially Mr Hill, who lived nearby.

Joining the congregation were members of Mr Hill's family, who took away a candle that had been lit in the church.

A condolence board has been set up in the church where people can write a personal message or light a candle.

Among the congregation was retired oil worker John Brown, 67, who said he had known Mr Hill since he was a boy as his own son Gavin went to school with him.

"It is a very sad day. I hope it gives them some strength because it's beyond belief to think of the blackness and the water," he said.

"I just hope at the end it was quick."

Rev Peter Lewis, the area dean for the Vale of Neath parish, said he hoped people would be able to draw strength from today's service.

"Phillip was part of the community and he was brought up here in a house just down from the church," he said.

"A lot of people knew him, particularly those villagers who worked in the mines, and so many people have come to leave their condolences."

The bodies of Mr Breslin, Mr Powell and Mr Jenkins, all from the Swansea Valley, and Mr Hill, from Neath, were discovered at the colliery on Friday, dashing desperate hopes that any of the men would be found alive.

Messages of support poured in from around the world, with well-wishers praying for some good news until the final death was announced.

An appeal fund set up to support the families of the four men has already raised over £30,000.

The appeal founder, Neath MP Peter Hain, said the Prince of Wales has agreed to become patron and it is believed the royal has already made a substantial contribution to the fund.

The Prince and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, also sent a private message to the families of those who died.

Mr Hain, who joined people signing condolences and lighting candles in Resolven, said: "This is a boost for the miners' families who are numb and desolate after the tragedy."

The worlds of rugby and football in south Wales also came together to pay their respects.

Wales rugby captain Sam Warburton dedicated the side's 17-10 World Cup win over Samoa to the miners' families.

And Swansea City manager Brendan Rodgers spoke of losing his own father Malachy last weekend to cancer as well as the tragedy at the Gleision Colliery.

A steady stream of people continued to leave floral tributes at a crossroads close to the colliery entrance.

Mr Hill's family visited yesterday and today three hand-written cards with a bouquet of flowers were left by Mr Jenkins' relatives.

One said: "To my darling Garry, sleep tight. Will always love you. Sarah, Alex, Mike, Jack and Ben xx."

Another card said: "To a wonderful son, our hearts are broken. All our love, mammy and daddy."

The Wales Office and the Health and Safety Executive have launched an investigation into the incident.

The alarm was raised early on Thursday after the shaft flooded, trapping the men.

It had been hoped that the miners - originally part of a group of seven - might have found refuge in an air pocket following the accident.

The men's 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.

One of the three miners who managed to escape the drift mine when it flooded has been named in reports as Daniel Powell, son of victim David Powell, who was said to be the site's maintenance engineer.

Of the three who escaped, one is now critically ill in hospital. The two other men who were with him emerged largely unharmed and helped the rescue operation.

Source: PA