'Pike River all over again': Devastated families want access to island

The brother of Hayden Marshall-Inman, the Whakatane man believed dead in the White Island eruption, says the family wants him brought home.

Five people have been confirmed dead and eight others are missing after White Island volcano erupted twice yesterday. Thirty-one people are being treated in seven hospitals for various injuries including four people in critical condition at Middlemore Hospital.

The man, who didn't want to be named, said his family wanted their relative brought home straight away and is worried the incident "will turn into another Pike River" with families unable to get their loved ones home.

"It's red tape. It's Pike River all over again," the brother said.

He said he knew of a local helicopter pilot who was prepared to go and get his brother and bring him home.

Hayden Marshall-Inman was killed in the eruption on Monday afternoon. Photo via NZ Herald
Hayden Marshall-Inman was killed in the eruption on Monday afternoon. Photo via NZ Herald
Choking back tears, the man said his thoughts and prayers were with the other families involved "and we just want them all back".

He said his brother had been doing tours for the past 15 years and knew the risks.

When asked how the family were coping, the man said "it is what it is, he died doing what he loved".

Their family had so far had one visit from someone who had been on the island yesterday, on behalf of police, but otherwise they'd received little information about what was going on.

A former Whakatane mayor and long-time diving operator around White Island has echoed the family of Marshall-Inman and slammed health and safety regulations.

Tony Bonne believed people should have been able to head out to the volcano immediately after the eruption to try and rescue people or bring bodies back to the mainland.

"I know as humans, before all the health and safety regulations we would have been in there straight away and putting our own lives at risk," he told the Herald this morning.

"I know if I was still operating my dive operation, I would have been out there to help. It's just one of those things.

"It's what we do, it's part of our DNA. It's frustrating where sometimes regulations stop that but I think we've got the right people."

There were 47 people in total on the island, 38 of them were from the cruise ship Ovation of the Seas.

Thirty-four injured people and five bodies were taken off the island by heroic rescuers in the face of extreme danger, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Bonne's diving company-operated tours around White Island for 15-years and he had been on the island many times.

He was feeling "numb" about the deaths of people who had been pulled off the island.

The volcanic eruption would be devastating for the small coastal community, with much of its economy focused around White Island, Bonne said.

Elsewhere, he asked people not to judge and lay-blame too early - getting people off the island was at the forefront of his mind.

"Emergencies from my experience of being mayor, people like to blame and we've seen that already," Bonne said.

"I say stand back, don't blame and let's get this thing sorted."

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