'My memories of the disaster are still vivid ten years on' Jonathan Hill looks back on Gleision

  • Jonathan Hill looks back on the tragic events of the Gleision disaster 10 years on.

My memories of the day of the disaster are still vivid ten years on.

It was a very quiet day in the newsroom when calls started to come in that there was a major incident unfolding.

At first it seemed almost impossible to believe that miners were still working underground in 2011, when we thought all our coal mines had long gone.

As the hours passed the scale of the emergency in the valley of the River Tawe became clear and we deployed all our resources.

The colliery was so inaccessible that we based ourselves at the nearby community centre where the families of the missing men were gathering to wait for news. 

As the hours passed the scale of the emergency in the valley of the River Tawe became clear Credit: ITV Wales

The Mines Rescue team and the Fire Brigade began a massive operation to pump out the flooded mine and we could just glimpse what was going on from across the valley.

Hopes were high that with so many rescuers deployed the men would soon be found.

By now the crisis underground had captured the attention of all the major news organisations and the car park at the community centre was soon full of satellite trucks and reporters.

It was only months earlier that 33 Chilean miners had been rescued after spending weeks trapped underground. That story ended with scenes of euphoric reunions with miners and their families and we hoped for the same. 

But as the hours passed it became clear from the ashen faces of the rescuers and the emergency services that the news from the tiny colliery mouth was not good.

It seemed almost impossible that in the twenty-first century we were witnessing a Victorian disaster.

Charles Breslin, 62, David Powell, 50, Philip Hill, 44, and 39-year-old Garry Jenkins died in the disaster.

Why is the story of Gleision so important today?

It's because it is the last chapter in the story of Wales' greatest industry which claimed hundreds if not thousands of lives across three centuries.

Today there will be many remembering not just the men of Gleision but their own fathers and grandfather who lost their lives digging coal.