Destinations

White Island/Whakaari tragedy: Missing victims may never be found

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

New Zealand police have conceded the chances of finding the two missing victims of the White Island eruption are slim.

The identities of the two remaining victims yet to be found after the tragic eruption of White Island (Whakaari) have been revealed.

On Monday, police named tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman and 17-year-old Australian tourist Winona Langford as still missing. They are believed to be in the sea after having been washed from the Whakaari volcano crater, according to Radio New Zealand.

Police are continuing their search of the area surrounding Whakaari, after poor weather and ash reportedly confounded their search yesterday.

Winona Langford was travelling with her family when they were caught up in the eruption of Whakaari (Facebook)

However, Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement told RNZ the chances of finding the remaining bodies were slim, even for one believed to have been spotted in the water a week ago.

“What we do is model and put ourselves in a position where we think that things could eventuate and if all of those things are playing out then we will find it,” Clement said.

“And if they don’t, we won’t.”

The eruption last Monday led to the official deaths of 16 people. Twenty-nine people were injured, many of who remain in a critical condition, in an event described as the worst burns incident in New Zealand history.

Winona Langford’s parents, Kristine, 45, and Anthony, 51, were among those killed in the eruption. Winona’s brother, Jesse, who was also on the island, remains in a coma in a Sydney hospital.

Minister for Foreign Affairs visits New Zealand

Australia’s Minster for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, praised the response to the Whakaari tragedy and the care of patients by emergency and medical personnel, which she said “has been nothing less than extraordinary”.

Payne is currently visiting New Zealand on behalf of the Australian government to convey Australia’s condolences and gratitude, meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters.

Payne also personally met with emergency responders, consular personnel and hospital staff involved in the response to the Whakaari eruption.

New Zealand law expert calls on Whakaari to be bought back by government

Whakaari is currently owned by the Buttle family, and stands as a private scenic reserve, according to Stuff.co.nz.

University of Auckland honorary academic and law school lecturer Kenneth Palmer believes it is time for the ownership of Whakaari to be handed back to the government.

Palmer told the outlet the government had the power to buy the land off the Buttle family under the Public Works Act and it should do so with a degree of urgency.

After acquiring the land, it could declare it a scientific reserve owned by the Crown and managed by the Department of Conservation, which could restrict access to authorised personnel such as scientists, according to Palmer.

“With that category, they have total discretion as to whether they allow any of the public to land on the island,” he explained.

If the Crown acquired the land, Palmer said another option was to either grant the land back to iwi, or introduce a joint management plan by putting a case before the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act (Māori Land Act).

To follow Travel Weekly’s ongoing coverage of the White Island (Whakaari) eruption tragedy, click here.

Featured image: White Island (Whakaari) New Zealand, December 11, 2019 (Planet/Twitter)

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