Police have confirmed that in the opinion of a senior forensic pathologist a video image is "very highly suspicious" of a fully clothed person lying face down in the Pike River Coal Mine.
Assistant Commissioner Grant Nicholls said he had briefed the Pike River Coal tragedy victim families on the latest information at their regular weekly meeting in Greymouth on Wednesday evening.
"A series of videos were taken via borehole 47 in February.
"Initially it was unclear as to the nature of an object in the mine and it appeared after Electronic Crime Laboratory enhancement improbable that the image was that of a body.
“To be sure, Police requested that Dr Martin Sage, a senior forensic pathologist, view the video images and make an expert opinion on one of eight images. Dr Sage indicated last week that in his view the shape is suspiciously that of a body. A review yesterday of a CAL scan of the same location (the scanning technology gives an impression of objects in the environment rather than a detailed image) has located an image consistent with that reported by Dr Sage.
"An important next step is to arrange with a suitable expert in technology to further enhance the CAL scan images so that better information is available to Police.
"Police is also investigating getting a different type of camera, imported from the United States, to be lowered into borehole 47 and to try and get better images.
"It is important to note that the images we currently have are not that clear. More refinement and interpretation of what currently appears to be a body is needed.”
Assistant Commissioner Nicholls said Police had also briefed the families on the possible state of three equipment boxes in the Slimline area of the mine. This followed representations from Counsel for the families asking for Police's assistance with a number of queries relating to CAL scans of the Slimline.
"Preliminary indications are that there are three boxes and one of these, thought to contain fire fighting equipment, appears to be open. It appears that the other two boxes, which are thought to contain self-rescuers are closed.
"Further enhancement and independent analysis of the slimline CAL scan is being sought," said Mr Nicholls.
The Assistant Commissioner said that it was important to brief the families on these matters. Intense public interest also made it prudent to outline the nature of this recent work to the public. However, given that all such matters are subject to ongoing investigation and will be examined by the Royal Commission of Inquiry Mr Nicholls would not be going into further detail.
Police Public Affairs: PNHQ
Kaye Calder: Police Public Affairs, 04 460 2986
Grant Ogilvie: Police Public Affairs, 04 474 9476