Pilot who broke civil aviation rules to rescue White Island victims says he'd do it again

A pilot who defied civil aviation rules to land on the island and rescue people says he'd do it again.

Tim Barrow is one of seven private helicopter staff members who took survivors off Whakaari/White Island - between them saving 10 lives.

Barrow is the director of Volcanic Air Safaris - a private helicopter owner - who broke the rules to save lives.

"I certainly never left Rotorua with the intention of breaking the rules. I went with the intention to see if we could assist in any way and just to get the job done," he told Newshub.

When he flew in, he says the scene was surreal.

"It became pretty clear there was some real carnage there."

Fellow Volcanic Air pilot Brian De Pauw was already on the island when it erupted - he immediately told his four German passengers to jump in the water - two didn't, and were badly burned. But the two that did weren't injured.

"There wasn't a lot of time to think. I think he did a remarkable job getting those guys into the water. That was as good as possible result as could be there," said Barrow.

De Pauw's badly damaged helicopter was left behind caked in ash. Barrow says the damage is "phenomenal".

"To move one and a half tonnes of aircraft on skids of course, not on wheels, as far as it has is quite phenomenal. Let alone to break those main rotor blades,"

Along with five other private helicopter company staff, Barrow and De Pauw ferried twelve people off the island - two died on their way to hospital.

But being called a hero is something Barrow's uncomfortable with.

"It was an evolving situation; we just did what we had to do."