Monday, November 22, 2010


THEAUSTRALIAN REPORT: FOR three generations, the Joynson men have gone down the coalmines.
The family knows all too well the anguish of waiting for one of them to emerge when disaster strikes.
On a black Saturday in September 1975, they endured the wrenching fear that Stanley Joynson was among the 13 miners killed when an explosion ripped through the Kianga colliery at Moura, central Queensland.
For 48 harrowing hours, the family did not know whether he was among those who perished. Most of his crew died - but Stanley, by a stroke of luck, had been on a different shift. He never went underground again.
The bodies of the 13 miners who died in the Kianga disaster on September 20, 1975, were never recovered, entombed in the mine when it was sealed.
Last night, Stanley Joynson was on his way to New Zealand to maintain another vigil for his brother, Willy Joynson, 49, who is among the 29 men missing in the Pike River mine blast.
While the family is clinging to hope that there will be another reprieve, New Zealand police acknowledged for the first time yesterday that the missing miners may be dead.
Another Australian, Josh Ufer, 25, of Townsville, is among them.
Three days after a gigantic explosion tore through the mine, authorities began the first tentative exploration efforts, pinning their hopes on the military robot and a 160m shaft - 15cm in diameter - which was being bored down to the general area where the miners were believed to be working. Rescuers will test the air quality to see whether it is safe enough to enter the mine. They must be sure the robot will not cause sparks and ignite the gases as it makes its way down the pit.
Mr Joynson's sister, Veronica Cook, told The Australian that if anyone could survive, it was her brother Willy.
"He's a very tough sort of person," Mrs Cook said, from the south Queensland township of Howard, where members of the Joynson family have gathered. "If anything, he would be helping to support the others.
"He's very strong-hearted."
Willy Joynson's wife, Kim, issued a statement last night applauding the effort being made to reach the missing men.
"We fully support and understand what everyone is doing behind the scenes to get our boys out," Mrs Joynson said, as she waited for news about her husband with their two sons, Johnathan, 13, and Benjamin, 10.
Mrs Cook spent yesterday comforting her mother as they waited for the telephone to ring.
It was a nerve-jangling repeat for the family.
"Mum had to wait then (in 1975) because communications were not good in those days and the flow of information was slow, but that ended underground mining for Stanley," Mrs Cook said.
"We are third-generation coalminers, and Willy knows the dangers he faced when he went off to work. He has been a miner most of his working life.
"He was offered a job in New Zealand, so he took it up in September last year, and he has been there ever since.
"What is frustrating for Mum and all of us is the lack of information. I heard Julia Gillard on the radio saying the families were being kept in touch, but the only updates we are getting are from Kim at the Red Cross centre in Greymouth.
"We have not heard from any Australian government person or department at all. We approached Qantas to help to get Stanley over to New Zealand and ended up with Air New Zealand giving him a really cheap return fare."
Before moving to New Zealand about a year ago, Willy and his family had lived at Tinana South, near Maryborough.
Mrs Cook said they had planned to move back to Australia in January, and described her brother as "very family-oriented".
The Joynsons, according to all accounts in Greymouth, were a good-humoured, easygoing working family.
A neighbour in Dunollie, Beverley Cunningham, told of how a kindly Willy Joynson would go out of his way to help others - taking the rubbish out for elderly neighbours was just one of his many good deeds.
Mr Joynson worked at the Burgowan coalmine near Howard before it was closed in the 1990s.
Other siblings of Mr Joynson were due to arrive in New Zealand last night. They will join Mr Ufer's mother, sister and his partner Rachelle Weaver, 23, who is three months pregnant.
Mr Ufer worked in the mines near Middlemount, in central Queensland, for several years before moving to Townsville and then New Zealand.
Isaac Regional Council Mayor Cedric Marshall said Middlemount - a town where "everyone tends to know everyone" - had banded together since the disaster. "It's a close-knit little town," he said. "When there's a tragedy, people seem to really pull together."
Middlemount church congregations have been praying for Mr Ufer's safe return since the disaster happened.

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