"The West Coast's darkest hour":
A second explosion in the mine two hours earlier had crushed any hope. The 29 men were pronounced dead.
...Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall broke the news to the gathering and crumbled in tears.
"It was absolute despair," said Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn. "When the news came, everyone just cracked up."
The community would never be the same, he said. "There's some distraught people, I tell you. It's unbelievable.
"This is the West Coast's darkest hour ... It doesn't get worse than this."
Laurie Drew, father of one of the lost miners, held his anger in check as he spoke out after the briefing.
But there had been immediate abuse hurled around the hall, he said. Why had the rescue operation failed them?
"They're all dead. I don't know what to say. They're all dead.
"I'm a father. I want my son back."
...Superintendent Gary Knowles, who had led the planning for a rescue, said the second explosion had been so severe that the rescue team had immediately agreed that all hope was lost.
"The blast was prolific, just as severe as the first blast," the police commander said.
"Based on that explosion, no one would have survived ... We are now going into recovery mode."