Missing White Island Volcano Victims May Never Be Found
New Zealand police believe the bodies of two people still missing since the White Island volcano disaster were 'washed out to sea' after the eruption, and they may never be found.
Despite extensive recovery searches by rescue personnel and police dive teams, Sydney teenager Winona Langford and New Zealand tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inmam are still unaccounted for.
NZ Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement told media on Wednesday that authorities believe the two bodies were washed from the island on December 9 and have been in the water ever since.
"It is very clear that two of the eight bodies we believe that were in or near a stream that runs off the island and into the sea were no longer present on the island," Clement said.
"We needed to go onto the island to confirm that, and we have done that twice."
Police confirmed they sighted the body of a man, who they believe to be Marshall-Inman, in the water on December 11.
Clement said in the 10 days since the eruption, recovery teams have walked along the stream they believe carried the bodies to sea.
They did this to determine the likelihood that the bodies were removed from the island via natural causes.
"It is my strong view that, I cannot be absolute positive, that the two bodies who had been in that water course were washed out to sea," Clement said.
Police have spent hours with both victims' families since the eruption and have explained their rationale to them, which police say, the families accept as the truth.
Langford's parents and her brother were on the island with her when the volcano erupted.
Her father died in the tragedy, however her brother Jesse remains alive in a Sydney hospital, receiving treatment for burns.
For the first time since last Monday's eruption, New Zealand authorities admit the balance is tipping against them in recovering the two missing bodies.
On Tuesday, police expanded their search to include nearby North Island bays, believing that tides in the Bay of Plenty could wash remains ashore.
"We think if there was going to be any drift in the tide of a body on the surface of the water anyway, it could potentially go that way so we have been searching that way as well," Clement said.
"We just have to work with the weather; we've been lucky up to now but it's turned on us currently."
The heartbreaking scenario comes after a defence force squad retrieved six bodies from nearby the crater.
Family of Marshall-Inman were at Whakatane, only to learn he wasn't among the six bodies recovered.
His brother Mark Inman said the family was managing its grief as best it could.
"We're coping. We're staying positive. You've got to keep positive thoughts so that you can forever hope that he'll return home one day," he told 1News.
"The only positive that would come out of him not returning is his absolutely love of the island and his passion for White Island.
"He'll forever be a guardian out there."
Marshall-Inman had a long fascination with the volcano, with Inman saying the fateful visit was his 1111th to the Bay of Plenty island.
"You could speak to him every day about it and he'd give you a new fact or something new that had happened on the island," he said.
"He loved sharing such a beautiful place with so many people, both Kiwis and internationals."
A reception will be held on Friday in Whakatane for Marshall-Inman's life.
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