White Island eruption: E Squadron, the elite SAS unit who helped bring the bodies back

Into Harm's Way, the motto of the elite SAS unit E Squadron who helped recover six bodies from Whakaari/White Island, could hardly have seemed more fitting. 

With warnings the volcano was still unpredictable and another eruption could occur, the unit went in and helped bring six of the bodies back to the families. 

It had been five days since White Island erupted with 47 tourists visiting the attraction. 

Eight people have since died and 23 remain injured. Eight bodies were left on the island, six of which were recovered on Friday morning. 

GNS Science warned White Island was unstable, with a 50-60 per cent chance of a further eruption, meaning the recovery operation was delayed until a plan could be put in place. 

Families of the deceased were growing increasingly frustrated the bodies could not be recovered.  

On Thursday night police announced the recovery would begin early on Friday morning. As the sun rose members of E Squadron flew out to White Island to begin the operation. 

Defence Force senior officer colonel Ryan McKinstry confirmed at a press conference after the recovery members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal - E Squadron - were part of the six man and two women team who went on to the island to recover the bodies. 

Col McKinstry said an assessment on whether it was safe to go to the island on Friday morning was "that there was a six percent chance in any three-hour period that the volcano may erupt".

"That met our requirements that it was safe enough," he told reporters.

He said colleagues did not hesitate to help in the recovery operation and the risks they faced cannot be downplayed.

E Squadron is part of the NZSAS and, according to the NZ Defence Force website, is responsible for rendering safe "all explosive ordnance, including improvised explosives and chemical, biological and radiological explosive devices, found in New Zealand above the waterline. 

"The Squadron's secondary role is to provide support to its parent unit as well as other Government agencies and conventional military forces as required."

The NZDF website says the unit undertakes missions that test the mettle of the most resourceful soldier. 

E Squadron's emblem has three elements: The Kaitiaki are two alert sentinels representing vigilance, force and ethics. The Fairbairn-Sykes knife represents precision. The motto  calls for "courage in the service of others". 

"It [E Sqaudron's badge] creates a bond among those who wear it and communicates to others that E Squadron members put themselves into danger, and sometimes may have to make the ultimate sacrifice, to protect others from harm." 

Words that would have been put to the test as they recovered the bodies from a live volcano.