It's something you will never forget: Moura mine explosions
JIM Parsons started swinging punches in his sleep just last week.
After all these years, he still endures the trauma, the survivor's guilt and the loss of losing his friends in Moura's mining disasters and other fatal mining accidents, and he's still fighting to find his way forward in life. Even in his dreams.
Jim, who moved to Moura in 1972, has lived since then in a town where almost every family has been touched by the desolation and devastation of grief.
He was living in Moura in 1975 when the explosion at Kianga No. 1 killed 13 people. He was one of the first responders to the tragic loss of 12 lives at the Moura No. 4 explosion. And he was underground, and lucky to escape, when 11 people died in the No. 2 explosion in 1994.
In 1994, Jim was one of 10 men who found their way back to the surface, not knowing that 11 of their work mates wouldn't ever make it back out.
"I still have nightmares and my wife's got to wake me up. She digs me in the ribs and she says I run a marathon every night - my legs and arms go.”
Jim, who now works at Biloela and is looking forward to the opening of the Moura Miners' Memorial this week, said the many deaths in the region had left him "very depressed and stressed”.
"It left a big hole. You consider suicide at times.”
He said that after the No. 2 explosion, he was "not game” to go into town.
"I never went down town after Number 2. You blame yourself. And you think everybody's talking about you - thinking how did he get out and not my husband or son.
"You think that.”
He says now that as long as he lives, he'll never forget those who lost their lives.
"With the memorial, it's good that they've dedicated something to them. And it's a reminder to everyone about what happened.”
The underground explosion in 1986 occurred about 11.05am on July 16, killing 12 miners who were extracting pillars in the Main Dips Section, and Jim was part of a team of men who went down in the aftermath to try and find them.
"We got to about 100 yards from where the bodies were but we couldn't get to them.”
The bodies were recovered seven days later on July 23 after an extensive operation, and Jim and a crew of Mines Rescue workers carried their work mates out.
"There was a Blackwater team of rescuers who went down and bagged the bodies. We knew all the men and they didn't.
"We got them all out by 5.30. We probably only carried them 200 yards but we had to go through water up to our stomachs.”
In 1994, Jim was one of 21 men working the Sunday night shift on August 7.
"When I got there and got dressed, they had a monitor in the room and you could see the monitor and it was in the explosive range.
"And I said, 'I don't think we should be going down there.'”
In the end, the miners went down, although Jim says he wasn't convinced.
Not long into his shift in the northern part of the mine, Jim says he heard a "terrible” noise. It was about 11.30pm.
"The noise was advancing down the mine and all I can remember is falling on my hands and knees in the middle of the road underground. I lost my glasses. And everybody started to call out. We were about 1.5km underground.”
Jim says the men who made it out were lucky because they had two Land Rover mine vehicles with them - they escaped minutes before their self-rescue equipment would have run out of oxygen.
"It took us about 35 minutes to get out. It was that black with dust we couldn't see six inches in front of us.”
The men who didn't make it included those in the 5 south section of the mine, and three others, a beltman and a sealing contractor with an assisting miner, also in the southern side of the mine.
On Tuesday, August 9, a second and more violent explosion meant rescue and recovery attempts had to be abandoned.
"After the second explosion, they knew then they would never retrieve the bodies. And that just made it worse,” Jim says.
In his early days as a miner, Jim realised the potential dangers of the industry.
While working in Blackwater in 1969 at Sirius Creek on nightshift, he was involved in a gas ignition which left eight people badly burnt.
His younger brother was also in the mine, but luckily all men survived.
In 1972, also at Sirius Creek, Jim swapped a shift with a co-worker. An explosion occurred on his work mate's shift, but he was able to lead his team of six to safety. The electrician who was with them, however, was killed