Pike River managers hire top defence lawyers

The former managers of Pike River Coal have employed top defence lawyers to fight accusations they are to blame for the deaths of the 29 men inside the mine in November.

Investigations have begun into the cause of the devastating explosions that inside the underground mine on New Zealand’s west coast.

Police and the Department of Labour are conducting the investigations, and the Royal Commission of Inquiry is due to start again in July, following preliminary hearings in April.

This morning a former staff trainer told Radio New Zealand the men feared they would be blamed for the tragedy and have hired professionals to help them argue their case.

George Colligan told the station he has hired top defence lawyer Greg King to represent him and four colleagues, out of concern Pike River Coal will point its finger at them.

"I’ve done nothing wrong,” he said.

“But when you’re a one man operator against a big company – what do you do? Wait until you’re already in the corner. It’s too late then.

"We can make them answer the questions now."

Neville Rockhouse, who lost his son Ben in the disaster and was also the training manager at the mine has hired a criminal defence lawyer too.

He said it was likely his reputation would suffer though the investigations and he wanted protection.

"The conduct of individuals may come into questions but so be it.

“To get to the truth, some reputations may need to be tarnished.

"At the end of the day, I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong and I don’t think George has done anything wrong."

Earlier this month, Rockhouse said financial issues were preventing a recovery effort at the mine.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry is due to begin in July and will run for 15 weeks.

The families of victims have argued that the length of the inquiry is not long enough to properly get to the bottom of what caused the tragedy.

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