National | Disaster

Missing bodies of Whakaari eruption believed to have been washed out to sea

Police have announced the two people missing following the eruption on Whakaari, White Island, are believed to have been washed out to sea.

They are 40-year-old tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman and 17-year-old Australian tourist Winona Langford.

At the time of the eruption, 47 people were on the island - 16 of whom have since been confirmed dead. Recovery operators have been searching for the bodies of two others, presumed dead.

Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Clement says recovery operators believe their bodies were washed off the crater into the sea.

"It is my strong view, but I cannot be absolutely positive, that the two bodies - Winona Langford and Hayden Inman - were washed out to sea,” Clement says.

Operators have done drift pattern modelling to predict where one body may have ended up.

"What we can say is there's no guarantee that a body caught in that tidal pattern would end up at landfall. In fact, it could just as easily be carried over top of the East Cape and out to the Southern Ocean."

Clement confirmed the rescue operation will still go ahead and the island remains under rāhui.

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The only Māori victim and Whakatāne local who lost his life in the eruption was Tipene Maangi.

The 24-year-old Maangi from Te Whānau a Apanui worked as a tour guide for White Island Tours and had only been working there for two months, according to his relation Craig Teddy.

Tipene grew up among his elders of Te Whānau a Apanui and he was regularly on the marae or among the community and with his people, Teddy says.

"He was well versed in our hapū Te Whānau a Te Ehutu traditions and relationship with our ancestress Whakaari, and he knew details about our hapū Treaty of Waitangi claim to protect her as well."