The first named victim of the eruption of Whakaari / White Island was an experienced tour guide "full of life", says former Whakatāne mayor Tony Bonne.
Mr Bonne spoke to Morning Report and confirmed the death of Hayden Marshall-Inman who had worked as a tour guide for White Island Tours for several years.
Mr Bonne operated diving expeditions to the island for 15 years and knew him personally.
He said Mr Marshall-Inman was a bright young man full of life.
"My company taught him to dive many years ago. He was a diver; he loved his fishing; he loved life and he'd been a guide for White Island Tours for a number of years - so he was a very experienced guide.
"It's just so sad to see him go; but it's also sad we don't know how many have gone... I think we all know it's [the death toll] going to go higher."
He said he did not know if anyone else from White Island Tours had been injured or killed. There was a high ratio of guides to visitors on every boat tour, he said, and the company had a strong commitment to health and safety.
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The dead man's brother Mark Inman has posted a message on Facebook.
"Friends and family, very sad news this evening. My bro Hayden Marshall-Inman has past away doing the one thing he loved. Thanks for all your messages."
A family member has told the New Zealand Herald that Mr Marshall-Inman knew the risks of the job and "died doing what he loved".
White Island Tours chairman Paul Quinn said devastation is an understatement.
"This is a terrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been impacted."
Diveworks Charters operator Phil van Dusschoten who has been running diving and fishing tours in the region for 24 years said Mr Marshall-Inman was "a really nice friendly guy who's going to be sadly missed".
He said a major part of his business is dolphin watching, and Mr Marshall-Inman would often ring and let the company know where they could go for good sightings.
Mr Marshall-Inman was one of the skippers for White Island Tours and had visited his company to introduce himself when he started the job and was "an awesome young guy".
White Island Tours customer Liz Evans was among many who have posted tributes to Mr Marshall-Inman on Facebook.
"I remember him from my tour not so long ago. Straight talker with safety as a priority.
"Kind, a good laugh. I looked for him in pics and hoped he would be ok so I'm gutted for you all and I'm shocked... Can't believe it. He was larger than life."
Mr Bonne said the Whakatāne community is mourning and is coming to terms with what has happened.
A volcano 'that has played up'
Whakaari / White Island had been part of the community for many years - there had been tourist operations to visit it since the early 1990s.
There had been eruptions in the past.
"I think we've been lucky. Eruptions have happened in the middle of the night and we've also had eruptions way back where it wasn't big enough to kill people and they've got off and even pulled helicopters off afterwards.
"It has been a volcano that has played up and that's why people want to go and have a look at it.
"There's only a few active volcanoes around the world and tourists line up to have a look at these marvellous things."
He did not believe the community had become complacent about the volcano's dangers.
It was monitored very closely by GNS and New Zealand had a rigorous approach to health and safety. "It's just one of those unfortunate things like a car accident."