While the Pike River mine tragedy and even the Beaconsfield tragedy are fresher in most of our minds, there was a different one affecting some people yesterday.
Retired miner Lance Waldon fought back tears as he recounted Ipsiwch’s worst mine disaster to the Queensland Times yesterday, on the 39th anniversary of the disaster that killed 17 men.
The mine exploded in 1972, and Waldon, who was working in the BoxFlat’s mine rescue team at the time, says he has never gotten over the fact he was not allowed in to recover his mates.
“It is one of those things you never forget,” Waldon told the Queensland Times.
“It is always in the back of your mind all the time.
“We lost a lot of good mates that day.”
At 73, Waldon says he still vividly remembers the moment he was blown against a wall by an explosion.
“I remember sliding down the wall and then I grabbed my helmet and picked myself up
“Everyone was screaming.
“It was the darkest, coldest, bloodiest night I ever put in.
“I have still got massive scars across my chest even today.”
The attitude to mining and safety has undergone a massive overhaul over the almost four decades since the tragedy, as is evident by the request of Waldon to return to work less than 24 hours after the tragedy.
He did return to the mine and continued there until he suffered an injury at the age of 49 and was pensioned off.
Yesterday, Waldon joined other mourners at a Swanbank memorial, which bears the names of victims who are still entombed in the mine.
Similarly, the bodies of the 29 miners killed at Pike River still remain underground, and may never be recovered.
Floral wreathes were laid at the site, and Col Webb, who had been working at the mine 21 years and left the year prior to the explosion said he will never forget what was lost.
“I lost a lot of mates that day,” he said.
“It came as a hell of a shock.”
Image: Workers First