Pike River mine tragedy survivor Daniel Rockhouse has won a bravery medal for his actions in rescuing another miner during the disaster.
The award comes more than four years after the initial disaster, in which an underground explosion took the lives of 29 coal miners.
Rockhouse was recognised for his rescue of fellow miner Russell Smith, whom he found laying on the ground following the initial explosion, dragging Smith for two hours to escape the mine.
The two men are the only survivors from the mine disaster, with Rockhouse’s brother Ben counted amongst those lost in the event.
The citation states: “Without Mr Rockhouse’s assistance, the other miner would have remained lying in the mine. It is highly unlikely that [Smith] would have been able to rescue himself.”
According to The Press, while Rockhouse is “chuffed” to receive the award, he admits it feels awkward, telling The Press: “It’s never going to bring back my brother or any of the other guys…it [doesn’t] feel right feeling happy about it.”
“If i could have saved them all, I would have.”
Rockhouse’s family have congratulated him on the medal.
Since the Pike River disaster did return to underground mining, but has since left, after narrowly escaping another underground incident when he was working in Australia.
Rockhouse was reportedly working in Peabody Energy’s North Goonyella coal mine when he was nearly crushed by a roof fall.
The miner said he began driving up to the portal as soon as he heard the roof start to crack.
“I got the hell out of there, and I drove up the main drive towards the portal and got about 300-400 metres away and the whole bloody roof caved in. So yeah, I’m very lucky,” he told the station.
He said that he would have been “dead for sure” if he hadn’t escaped as quickly as he did, after finding out the roof collapsed in the exact place where he was working.
The award comes only months after Pike River’s new owner, Solid Energy, ruled out ever re-entering the mine to retrieve the bodies of those miners left underground since the incident.