The workers digging in the Remutaka rail tunnel heard the loud roar about 11.30am on September 9, 1952.
They thought it was an earthquake. A horror situation to those working underground.
The team in the tunnel were creating a new rail link between Upper Hutt and Featherston for a shorter quicker route. At nearly 9km it was the longest tunnel in New Zealand until the opening of the Kaimai tunnel.
Work had started in 1948 with mostly single men living in huts at either end.
Among them was Athanassios Athanassiades, a 20-year-old Greek man.
Inside the tunnel, earth and rocks were falling and men were scrambling to get out of the way.
When the roaring died down, 27 men were trapped behind the rock fall.
A rescue party was quickly organised, to try to dig down to the men through the slip and by late afternoon a communication pipe was put through.
The trapped men sat on an electric locomotive with its dim light going and waited, two of the married men sharing out their lunch all around.
Twenty six of the men were fine. But one, Athanassiades, had been completely engulfed in earth and was seriously injured. The others tried hard to reach him but every time they tried, more earth fell.
It took nine hours for the rescuers to reach the men who were brought out one by one. The married men were met by their anxious wives who had been waiting for them for hours.
Then the rescuers began scraping away the rocks and earth to reach Athanassiades. They managed to get to him, finding he was lying beneath a truck. They had to dig a shaft down to him carefully to prevent further falls.
Doctor Denys Higenbotham went into the tunnel early the next day to talk to Athanassiades who had crushed ankles and was in shock.
The diggers managed to get a pipe to him, to give him soup and tea but he vomited, unable to keep it down. They told him they would be with him soon but he said he did not think they would make it.
The men worked furiously, in shifts of 10-15 minutes to dig as hard as they could before another took over.
When they finally reached him they found him in an almost impossible position, trapped almost on his head, with his legs held above his head.
They had to begin cutting him out of the wood and timbers that covered him. Then he was taken out using the electric locomotive. He had been trapped for 10 hours and 35 minutes.
Outside he was met by his younger brother Nicolaos who had only started work on the site that week. Athanassios Athanassiades was put in an ambulance and rushed to hospital but died later that night.
It was in 1954 that the two ends of the tunnel finally met and it was officially opened in 1955.
Athanassios Athanassiades is buried in Karori Cemetery.
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