Peter Whittall - Asshole of the Week Award | The Jackal

23 Jul 2011

Peter Whittall - Asshole of the Week Award

Yesterday, the Pike River Mine inquiry revealed that Peter Whittall did not even attend a test evacuation to see if somebody could escape up the 100 metre-plus vertical ventilation shaft, which is the mines only means of escape other than the main 2.3km tunnel.

Whittall said he was on the road doing a shareholder briefing, showing exactly how highly Pike River Coal viewed the safety of it's workers.

No test run had been undertaken to see if an escape up the Alimak (ventilation shaft) was viable. Certainly no test run was ever done using a self-rescuer, which gives around 30-60 minutes of oxygen.

Users of the self-rescuers are not supposed to over-exert themselves making a climb up the escape shaft difficult. It was also revealed that the Alimak could not be used at all in the event of a fire. Apparently Whittall and fellow colleges joked about who would be able to get up the escape shaft a few months prior to the disaster.

It's no laughing matter now though... 29 men were killed and still lie entombed in the Pike River mine because they were not alerted to the danger and could not escape in time.

It's the companies responsibility to ensure gas monitoring and removal is adequate and proper escape routes are available and known through trial evacuations. Unfortunately trial evacuations were not held, presumably because it cost money.

Despite this, Whittall said:
“I think it shows that the company has taken every conceivable step and employed every available consultant to provide the best possible advice…I think the company from day one has always had safety at the forefront of its way of operating.”
If that had been the case, the disaster would not have occurred.

Such stupidity is nothing new on Whittall's part. While the victims' families and union representatives were told to sit in the audience at the memorial service, Pike River Coal executives were given pride of place next to the Prime Minister for yet another media opportunity.

When Whittall spoke at the memorial, he made no company apology to the families of the deceased. At one stage a church leader even referred to the explosion as an Act of God. In fact National and Pike River Coal used the situation for self promotion, and in light of their responsibility, such manipulation is unacceptable.

Yesterday signalled the end of the medias love affair with Peter Whittall, which was a baseless relationship built on public grief. It would also seem that National politicians are now going to distance themselves from the disaster as much as they can. Rats abandoning a sinking ship in other words.

There is no longer any positive effect from John Key and his flunkeys taking the public platform when they're equally as liable.

In light of Peter Whittall's decision to cut corners to get the coal out of the hole faster than was planned, to the detriment of a second emergency egress, is it any wonder he's an Asshole Award winner?