White Island eruption: Locals continue search for two missing victims

By Matthew Theunissen of RNZ

The official search for the two remaining victims of the Whakaari / White Island disaster has been called off, but that isn't stopping locals from looking for the bodies of Hayden Marshall-Inman and Winona Langford.

Despite extensive shoreline and aerial searches that have spanned to Cape Runaway, there has been no sign of the 40-year-old tour guide or the 17-year-old Australian tourist since the eruption on 9 December.

Superintendent Andy McGregor said every shoreline and stretch of ocean where the bodies could conceivably be had been thoroughly searched.

"We've had extensive air searches conducted over the weekend by Coastguard; previous to that we had the Navy conduct a large aerial search of the sea; we've had the Deodar police launch searching coastal areas; we've had the police and Navy dive teams searching around White Island and other areas of probability," he said.

"Nothing's come up and if we have a look now, we're into day 15."

While the official search is now over, the police investigation into the tragedy continues.

McGregor said police would return to the area should any new information come to light.

"The disappointing factor for us is that we haven't located Hayden and Winona. We would have loved to have done that and return them to their families but that's not the case.

"There's a lot of factors out there with Mother Nature and it's just one of those things - she hasn't released those two people to us."

Hayden Marshall-Inman's family held a celebration of his life last week as they waited for news from searchers.

His brother brother Mark Inman said locals would keep looking for the two bodies despite the official search being over.

"We're a close-knit community all the way through the east coast and certainly they'll have the cray boats and long liners and everyone else out searching.

"No one's given up yet it's just that the main search out at White Island has ceased."

Winona Langford's parents, Anthony and Kristine, were both killed in the eruption and her brother Jesse is in hospital being treated for severe burns.

Mark Inman believes his brother is looking after her.

"He won't come home until Winona's found. He was the guardian of the island - or is now - and until she's found he won't come home either because he would hate to have her out there by herself."

Seventeen other people are confirmed to have died as a result of the Whakaari / White Island eruption.