Gleision tragedy one year on: The story no-one wanted to write
A CONTACT calls with a tip-off about a story. Nothing unusual about that — it's routine stuff for a reporter.
But it's immediately clear this is something out of the ordinary.
Miners, I'm told, have been trapped underground in the village of Cilybebyll.
I had not realised there were still any working mines in the Swansea Valley, so it takes me by surprise, but I appreciate the enormity of the story.
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And yet there's something particularly cruel about its location. The same community is already reeling from the tragic death of a five-year-old boy just two days earlier.
Harry Patterson was killed in a freak accident at the his home in Alltwen after being crushed by the family car as it rolled down the driveway.
That story too had come to me from a tip-off, and reporting it had been traumatic, and left a palpable sadness in the Evening Post newsroom.
Now I was driving back up the valley, past the village I visited the day before, looking for the privately owned Gleision drift mine, which I had never known existed.
I park up in a quiet, leafy road, which will shortly become the centre of a media scrum.
But at this stage, myself and a photographer are first on the scene.
We know we are in the right place — police tape and an officer block access to the lane which leads to the mines, and we are told in no uncertain terms not to breach it.
So, as my colleague Jonathan looks to find a vantage point for his camera, I begin to walk around to see what I can find out.
We are on the scene so soon after the accident occurred that it has yet to be acknowledged by the emergency services, and we are still waiting for an official announcement from police.
But I bump into someone I have previously written about, and he fills me in on how the morning has unfolded.
At this stage, it is not clear how many men are underground or whether they are still alive.
But it's clear this is a massive story, and I telephone the office to update them. Either we have a race against time, possibly echoing the story of the rescue of men from a Chilean mine a year earlier or we have something almost unspeakable.
Soon, I recognise another face walking down the lane — a colleague from another paper. Word is spreading.
More emergency services arrive. Police take control of managing the site, paramedics are poised, and solemn mines rescue teams are waved through the police line.
Inevitably, the television vans arrive, huddling together in the narrow road alongside nearby Rhos Community Centre, which has become the centre of operations and where families of the men underground wait anxiously.
It's obvious we face a long wait, I'm relieved in the evening by a colleague, but I'm back early the following day.
We still don't know if the men are alive as the politicians arrive, but they too are enveloped by gloom.
Is there still hope? If there was, it is taken from me by someone I know who is closely involved with the rescue operation.
He tells me, off the record: "Nino, there's no chance".
My stomach drops. Like everyone waiting, the families, the community of Cilybebyll, the media, we had been hoping for only one outcome, some of us already composing in our heads a story of rescue and relief.
Now I know it's not to be, and as the hours advance, press conferences are hastily convened on the quiet lane where I had arrived the day before, and I already know what they are going to say.
Television crews, radio reporters and newspaper scribes jostle to hear the updates from police.
Swansea superintendent Phil Davies — who has managed the media with extraordinary patience — announces that, one by one all the bodies have found another body has been found.
It is the story that none of us wanted to write. But that is the job of a reporter, and some stories stay with you forever.