Mine victim made 36-hour, 4-flight journey to be at friend's wedding

TRIBUTES were paid to a Scot killed in the New Zealand mine blast yesterday as a third explosion erupted at the facility.

Pike River Coal chairman John Dow said the fresh blast happened almost exactly a week to the minute after the first.

Two Britons were among 29 caught in last week's explosion and officials said there was no way they could have survived a second blast on Wednesday.

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High levels of potentially explosive methane gas, blamed for all the explosions, has kept recovery teams from entering the mine to recover the workers' bodies.

Peter Rodger, 40, from Perthshire, and Malcolm Campbell, 25, from St Andrews, Fife, were among the missing miners.

Mr Rodger's best friend Gary Fraser yesterday paid tribute to the "hard-working and popular" mineworker.

Just last month Mr Rodger had taken four flights and travelled for 36 hours to be best man at Mr Fraser's wedding.

Mr Fraser said his friend had settled in New Zealand after suffering an injury while visiting his mother in the country that ended his career on the North Sea oil rigs.

Mr Rodger had previously worked as a mechanical engineer with Perth-based construction firm GS Brown, who he had joined as an apprentice after leaving Perth Grammar School.

After moving to New Zealand he fell in love with Diane Morris, a friend of his sister, who also emigrated to New Zealand several years ago.

Mr Fraser said: "It was lovely to see him so happy and settled.

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"That was the most important thing, even though I would have liked him to come back to Perth.

"Everyone who knew Pete loved him to bits, and a lot of people in this town are going to miss him."

He added: "We were quite a boisterous crew when we were younger. But Pete was a real solid guy. He was hard-working and popular with his work-mates."

Mr Fraser said Mr Rodger had moved to be with his family after suffering a career-ending injury.

He said: "He fell off a ladder while he was checking his mum's roof tiles. That's the kind of guy he was, always wanting to help.

"He was like family to us, but he had no immediate family here, so two years ago he went to settle in New Zealand.

"He was very, very happy over there. He just got his citizenship in June or July after fighting for it for so long, and he was happy about that."

Mr Fraser added that Mr Rodger still kept in regular touch with his friends in Perth, and remained an avid Rangers fan despite being on the other side of the world. He was also a long-time St Johnstone supporter who, as a youngster, had sold programmes on the terraces of Muirton Park.

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Mr Fraser said: "Pete was an all-round sportsman himself.We played in the Perth Rovers Sunday boys' team and St Johnstone Supporters' under-16s. After he moved to New Zealand he got into rugby as well."

Mr Fraser added that Mr Rodger had first lived in Christchurch before moving to Greymouth, where the tragedy struck.

He said: "He was doing the same kind of work in the mines as he had done on the rigs, and faced the same dangers."

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