Whakaari / White Island: Police confirm another death

10:01 pm on 14 December 2019

Police say another person has died following the Whakaari / White Island eruption bringing the official toll to 15.

The police dive squad is facing difficult conditions.

Divers have been facing challenging conditions around Whakaari / White Island. Photo: NZ Police

The person who died was being treated at Waikato Hospital, police said.

It is believed 47 people were on or close to Whakaari / White Island when it erupted on Monday. With two people still missing on or around the island after the eruption, that brings the total number of deaths to 17.

Six bodies were recovered from the island yesterday but two have not yet been found.

Today divers searched the sea for one of the victims, after a body was seen in the water earlier in the week, but could not be retrieved because of the conditions.

The divers have been facing challenging conditions as the water around the island is contaminated, Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims said in a statement this afternoon.

Divers have been facing challenging conditions around Whakaari / White Island.

Photo: NZ Police

Tims said the divers have to take extra safety precautions, including using specialist protective equipment.

They also have to decontaminate using fresh water each time they surface.

Conditions in the water are not optimal today, with between zero and two metres visibility depending on the location, Tims said.

The divers have reported seeing dead fish and eels floating in the water and washing ashore.

Personnel from the Navy dive team were set to join the search this afternoon.

In a statement on Saturday evening, police said they continue to plan for a return to Whakaari / White Island, and will release details when they are in a position to do so.

Meanwhile, police have formally identified Krystal Eve Browitt, 21, from Australia as one of the dead from the Whakaari / White Island eruption.

The Melbourne woman was on a cruise on the Ovation of the Seas, with her parents and older sister.

Her father and sister joined her on a day trip to Whakaari and according to a fundraising page for the family, the pair are in hospital. Ms Browitt's mother, Marie, stayed on the ship.

Read more on the Whakaari/White Island eruption:

Tributes for former tour guide Tipene Maangi

Tributes have continued to flow for the victims of the volcanic eruption at Whakaari / White Island which took the lives of 16 people - in particular for tour guide Tipene Maangi.

A tearful Susanna Olivier came to leave a message for Tipene on the memorial at the Whakatāne foreshore this afternoon.

She and her husband Louw taught the 23-year-old who had started working as a tour guide on the island only months ago when he was growing up in Te Kaha.

Olivier said Tipene had recently sought her advice about an interview.

"I said 'you are such a wonderful young man just be yourself' and I said 'but what kind of interview?' and he said 'oh whaea I'm looking at ECE early childhood education' and so I said 'you will be absolutely amazing'."

Olivier said that was the last she had heard from Tipene and it came as a shock to learn he was working as a tour guide on the island.

"You always think you have time to say your goodbyes and I didn't have time to say my goodbyes to Tipene."

Susanna and Louw Olivier both taught Tipene Maangi.

Susanna and Louw Olivier both taught Tipene Maangi. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

She said Tipene was just an amazing young person.

"He was a role model. Always respectful to his elders, respectful to his mates and just loved by everybody.

"Everywhere he went Tipene was the centre of ... I don't want to say party because Tipene wasn't a party boy ... but he was just one of those who brought people together."

An Auckland woman said she had no hesitation in driving for four hours to pay tribute to Tipene Maangi who she described as a good mate.

Allanah Marks drove down from Auckland to leave a tribute to Tipene.

Allanah Marks said Tipene will be sorely missed. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Allanah Marks drove down from Auckland to leave a tribute to Tipene.

"I just wanted to pay my respects to all the families that have been put through this. It's sad to see this happen."

Marks said she had fond memories of Tipene.

"He's a fella that will make you feel welcome and happy all the time. You can even sit there and sing with him. Play the guitar with him.

"He always put everybody else first before himself."

Marks said Tipene had called in to see her recently while on a trip to Rainbow's End in Manukau.

"He was in a happy mood, a very happy mood."

She said he would be sorely missed.

There were no plans for a team to return onto Whakaari / White Island today but police say plans were being prepared to do so.

Meanwhile, GNS Science said while the situation on the volcano remained highly volatile activity had reduced significantly overnight.

Its alert status had remained at level 2.

The Prime Minister has announced there will be a minute's silence for the victims of the eruption on Monday 16 December at 2.11pm.

The minute's silence will be exactly one week after the eruption started on Monday and Jacinda Ardern said she will be observing the silence alongside members of Cabinet at their weekly meeting.

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