Pain of loss still raw, 37 years on

FRESH flowers were lovingly placed last Friday on the Box Flat Memorial at Swanbank, marking the 37th anniversary of the mine disaster that claimed 17 lives.

Wayne Tait came to honour his father, Maurice, who was killed with fellow miners when a violent explosion at 2.47am on July 31, 1972, left them with no means of escape.

Fourteen victims were entombed when a decision was made to seal up the shattered mine to put out the fire.

Three other miners were killed by the blast at the pithead.

The Booval Mines Rescue Brigade lost 14 of its members in the disaster.

Brigade members Allan Berlin and Lance Waldon praised Ipswich City Council on its care for the memorial. “(Sealing the mine is) one thing that's played on my mind over the years,” Mr Berlin said.

“That was the hardest thing. I'd been down the mine three times that night.

“The roof was that hot you couldn't touch it.

“We were chased out by the smoke. They decided to abandon the mine.

“I went out to fill sandbags, and that's when it blew.

“There was a ball of flame that shot over the powerhouse. I could see the whole paddock on fire.

“The disaster ruined that many families. They were the ones that suffered.”

Mr Waldon remembers a big red glow in the tunnel before the mine exploded.

“I've got big burn marks right across my chest,” he said.

• Killed in Ipswich's worst disaster were Kenneth Cobbin, William Drewett, William Drysdale, Andrew Haywood, Robert Jones, William Marshall, John McNamara, Walter Murphy, Brian Randolph, Brian Rasmussen, Daryl Reinhardt, Harold Reinhardt, John Roach, Leonard Rogers, Maurice Tait, Mervyn Verrenkamp and Walter Williams. Clarence Wolski died later of his injuries.

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