National | New Zealand Defence Force

Whakaari eruption recovery recognised in Queen's Birthday honours

New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel involved in the recovery of victims from the Whakaari/White Island disaster have been recognised with a number of awards.

The Queen’s Birthday Honours awards have recognised a serviceman with a Distinguished Service Decoration for his role in leading the recovery teams to retrieve victims from the eruption on December 9, 2019 which killed 22 people. The serviceman has not been named for security reasons.

NZDF deployed personnel from the Royal New Zealand Navy, Royal New Zealand Air Force and New Zealand Army to respond alongside other emergency personnel and successfully rescued six victims.

A further nine members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron (EOD) were deployed on the volcano four days after the eruption to recover the victims that who were killed by the eruption.

Air Marshal Kevin Short said all NZDF personnel involved in recovery efforts on Whakaari displayed courage and determination as they faced extreme conditions whilst wearing cumbersome protective equipment that caused them to fatigue quickly.

He said, “Their efforts played a critical role in the success of the operation.”

Court hearing

Meanwhile, the hearing against the 13 parties charged by Worksafe following the deadly eruption of Whakaari has seen the National Emergency Management Agency enter a plea of not guilty in relation to the charges it is facing.

Other parties include GNS Science, Whakaari Management owners Andrew, James and Peter Buttle,  White Island Tours and ID Tours New Zealand.

Others who appeared asked for more time to enter a plea.