Seventeenth victim of White Island eruption dies in hospital. Picture: White Island Flights
Seventeenth victim of White Island eruption dies in hospital. Picture: White Island Flights

Another victim dies from NZ volcano

Another person who was on New Zealand's White Island when it erupted has died in hospital, bringing the official death toll to 17.

Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims, the national operations commander for the eruption, said the person died last night at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland, according to the New Zealand Herald .

It is understood authorities were told about the death just before 11pm.

The latest victim is the sixth person to die in hospitals in New Zealand and Australia in the two weeks since the eruption.

The majority of the victims died in New Zealand, with one person dying in Sydney on Saturday.

 

This new death toll doesn't include the two people still missing following the December 9 eruption.

Sydney teenager Winona Langford, 17, and New Zealand tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman, 40, haven't been found, despite retrieval missions on the island and in the water surrounding it.

It is believed their bodies may have washed out to sea.

Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement said dive crews on a police boat spotted a male body in the water near the island two days after the eruption.

Winona Langford, 17, of North Sydney, was visiting the island with her family when the eruption occurred. Picture: Instagram
Winona Langford, 17, of North Sydney, was visiting the island with her family when the eruption occurred. Picture: Instagram

 

Hayden Marshall-Inman from Whakatāne was a guide to White Island.
Hayden Marshall-Inman from Whakatāne was a guide to White Island.

He said the boat was able to manoeuvre within meters of the body but large waves prevented crews from recovering the body before it sank.

"We are deeply sorry that we haven't, until this time, been able to return those bodies," Clement told reporters in the town of Whakatane, near the volcanic island.

"That has been our mission throughout, firstly to save people and then to recover people. It hurts us, and it hurts our people and it hurts everybody in this community when we don't achieve that purpose."

Clement said there is a chance the bodies could be found at sea or wash ashore on the North Island's East Cape. But he also said police would scale back their search efforts.

A total of 47 day-trippers and guides were on the island when it erupted, hailing from Australia, the United States, Britain, China, Germany, Malaysia and New Zealand.

A recovery operation to the island saw six bodies brought back to the mainland, with two still missing. Picture: New Zealand Defence Force/Getty Images
A recovery operation to the island saw six bodies brought back to the mainland, with two still missing. Picture: New Zealand Defence Force/Getty Images

Authorities are examining why tour operators were allowed to take travellers onto the volcano's rim just days after scientists had raised its threat level.

Many of those killed and injured were Australian tourists who had been travelling aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Ovation of the Seas.

White Island, also known by its Maori name, Whakaari, is the tip of an undersea volcano about 50 kilometres (30 miles) off New Zealand's North Island and was a popular tourist destination before the eruption.

It's unclear if the privately owned island will ever be reopened for tourist visits.

More to come.