MINE TRAGEDY: Son pays tribute to 'hero' dad from Blackbutt
"IT DOESN'T matter if I open my eyes or close my eyes, I still see Dad."
Those were the heartbreaking words Nanango's Anthony Routledge used to describe the grief of losing his father David Routledge, 55, in last week's mine tragedy at Middlemount.
The much-loved Blackbutt father and grandfather, who died after a high wall collapsed on the excavator he was operating on Wednesday, has been remembered as a "champion guy" who loved the outdoors and would do anything to provide for his family.
Anthony, who had worked with his dad at Middlemount Mine for more than three years, was meant to work the night shift the day of his dad's death, but instead decided to take leave from work.
"He loved his job, Dad loved operating machines," Anthony said.
"I was working at Middlemount Coal and I had been there for eight years, Dad was in between jobs at the time and I asked my bosses if they could put Dad on.
"We were on separate crews, but on the same shift. I got to see Dad not often, but for a couple of minutes every day at work."
Anthony had recently asked his dad to take leave from work too.
"I was going to go to Townsville this weekend to race motocross in the Queensland titles - but unfortunately dad didn't have enough hours to take the time off.
"I opted not to do (the race) because Dad couldn't be there."
On Wednesday, Anthony was at his home in Nanango about to wash his motorbike when he received a call from the mine - the dreaded call no family of a mine worker ever wants to receive.
"The news dropped me straight to my knees," Anthony said.
"They never said Dad had passed away yet, because they still hadn't got to him to know his condition.
"But I knew deep down, straight away. They don't make a phone call with that amount of worry in their voice for nothing."
According to Anthony, the grief of losing their family patriarch had touched each family member differently in the days since his untimely and heart-wrenching death.
Anthony's mum Debbie struggles to get to sleep each night and breaks down in tears every day over the loss of her soulmate and husband of 35 years.
His brother Daniel has also been left distraught.
As has Anthony, who hides his tears behind reflective sunglasses and every now and then struggles to find his words when speaking of his dad, a man he considered his hero.
The focus now, for him, is to stay strong for his mum and keep the memories of his dad alive.
David John Routledge was born on August 8, 1963 in Nanango, Queensland.
With two brothers and two sisters, David was considered the "rebel" of the family and spent most of his youth fishing and hunting in the small community of Blackbutt in the South Burnett region.
He met the love of his life Debbie while they were both teenagers.
After Debbie fell pregnant with their eldest son Daniel, they married in 1983 in the Blackbutt Church of England.
Their family was complete with the arrival of Anthony.
"They started a family young, they didn't have much," Anthony explained.
"Since then, Dad's whole life has been devoted to giving mum everything she deserved."
David's unwavering commitment to provide for his family often took him far away from home and for the past 12 years, he worked in the mines.
"It's been a tough ride for Dad, he spent a lot of time away from home when I was in my teens," Anthony said.
"He was a great father - he did absolutely everything for me and brother. Dad was just a champion guy."
David was also an "awesome granddad" who doted on his five grandchildren: Jackson, 14, Tyler, 11, Summa, 9, Tyson, 6 and Tayla, 2.
As a tribute to his dad, Anthony hopes to one day fix up one of his old cars and drive all the grandchildren to their school formals in it.
"That's something Dad would have absolutely loved dearly to be there for."
"He was very proud of his family."
TOUGHER LAWS NEEDED TO PROTECT MINERS
Anthony Routledge plans to carry on his dad's legacy by advocating for laws to protect his fellow mine workers.
He hopes to team up with the CFMEU to push for stronger legislation to ensure all mining families never have to go through the same pain of not seeing their family member return home from work.
He has also called on workers to stand up and speak out if they have any fears for their own safety.
"Everyone should be able to stand up and speak their mind without being punished or feel belittled for their concerns," Anthony said.
As someone who is passionate about workplace safety, Anthony's grief has been intensified by his own father's gut-wrenching mining death.
"I've got three kids, I always wanted to go home and I always wanted my workmates to go home," he said.
"I wanted everyone to get home to their families, that was my main thing."
The CFMEU last week said Mr Routledge's death must serve as a "wake-up call" for better safety and practices at mines.
"Workers must be empowered to stand up and speak out on safety matters without the fear of reprisal," CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland president Stephen Smyth said.
Anthony thanked emergency services and the emergency response team who worked through the night to try to save his Dad.
"They tried through the night and they didn't deserve to see this either," he said.