Krystal Browitt is one of the victims of the White Island eruption.
Krystal Browitt is one of the victims of the White Island eruption.

Australian woman first victim identified

New Zealand police today officially identified the first victim from the White Island volcano eruption as 21-year-old Australian woman Krystal Browitt.

Browitt was on a family holiday to celebrate her birthday in New Zealand when she joined her older sister Stephanie and father Paul on a visit to the island.

Her mother Marie stayed behind on the boat, and has since been by the bedside of her daughter and husband who were both originally in a coma in a hospital burns unit following the eruption, according to a GoFundMe page set up for the family.

"It has been quite difficult," a friend of the Browitt daughters, Tahlia West told AFP.

West remembered Krystal as "just a beautiful girl, very caring, very gentle".

 

Krystal Browitt.
Krystal Browitt.

 

Of the 47 people on the island at the time of the eruption, at least 16 were killed while 28 remain in hospitals in New Zealand and Australia with 21 listed as being in a "critical" condition.

New Zealand navy and police divers were today back in the waters around White Island searching for a seventh volcano victim's body after six were recovered on Friday, leaving two still missing.

With a 50 per cent chance of the volcano erupting again, the divers are searching for one body they believe is trapped in water close to the island.

The body of the eighth victim still missing has not yet been sighted, however no NZ military personnel will be returning to the island's surface yet, due to dangerous conditions.

As aerial surveillance is also underway to try to locate the two bodies, vulcanologists aboard a ship just off the island are electronically monitoring the volcano's behaviour

"We do believe that at least one of them is in the water and the other one we are unsure," but the body may be in the sea as well, NZ Police Commissioner Mike Bush told a news briefing. "We will continue to search for these people."

The navy divers are swimming in and around that island, as noxious gases and hot steam remain on the island's surface.

 

With a 50 per cent chance of another eruption, the divers are searching for one body they believe is trapped in water close to the island. Picture: Sunrise.
With a 50 per cent chance of another eruption, the divers are searching for one body they believe is trapped in water close to the island. Picture: Sunrise.

As Australian survivors remain in a critical condition in hospitals in Sydney and Melbourne, the NSW Health Department released a patient update.

Four patients at Concord Hospital and three at Royal North Shore Hospital remain in a critical condition, with two at Royal North Shore now stable.

The family of one patient at Concord have requested privacy about the condition of their loved one.

Reports say that apart from hot ash and steam emitted by the White Island volcano, victims would also have been inhaling sulfuric acid.

Conditions on the island during Friday's recovery operation were ideal with the volcano remaining "quiet" as the team worked, NZ Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement said.

In a joint military, police and scientific recovery plan, a team of seven soldiers landed on the volcano island hoping to recover all the remaining bodies of those killed in Monday's eruption.

Aerial surveillance of the island continues today to find the eighth body still unaccounted for. Picture: Sunrise.
Aerial surveillance of the island continues today to find the eighth body still unaccounted for. Picture: Sunrise.

The soldiers, from the specialist E Squadron of NZ's elite SAS forces, landed at the island's jetty about 8am wearing yellow full-body hazmat suits and closed-circuit breathing apparatus.

With an exit strategy in place should there be another eruption, and medical staff and a back-up team on boats nearby, the soldiers tested gas levels of the air.

Then, working in pairs, they headed across the barren landscape towards the volcano's centre.

The soldiers brought the bodies back to a waiting Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopter, which then flew to the nearby ship, HMNZS Wellington.

Scientists have warned that White Island, which has a larger section of the volcano undersea, is "highly volatile".

The island regularly vents steam and sometimes mud, but the NZ Government is determined to balance the risks to recover all the bodies, for the sake of families anxiously awaiting news.

candace.sutton@news.com.au

Working in pairs, the SAS soldiers wore Hazmat suits against the hot steam and noxious gases on White Island. Picture: NZDF.
Working in pairs, the SAS soldiers wore Hazmat suits against the hot steam and noxious gases on White Island. Picture: NZDF.


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