White Island eruption: Search for two remaining bodies continues

Divers have resumed their search for a body seen in the water.
Divers have resumed their search for a body seen in the water. Photo credit: Getty.

Police have confirmed there will be no return to the island today but the search for the last two bodies of the White Island eruption will continue. 

The Police Dive Squad and Navy divers have resumed their search for a body seen in the water on Tuesday after six people were recovered on Friday.  

"Today's planning will allow us to return to the island to conduct further land-based searches for the remaining deceased, as the environment on and around the island allows," a statement said. 

The remaining bodies recovered from Whakaari / White Island have been taken to Auckland for the post mortem and disaster victim identification process.

"The victims and their families are our priority but we also have important obligations.

"We must work on behalf of the Coroner to ensure correct identification," said Deputy Commissioner John Tims, National Operations Commander.

"It would be unforgivable to get the identification process wrong."

There are five stages to the victim identification process. 

Phase 1: Scene

  • The deceased are examined and documented, then taken to the mortuary.

Phase 2: Mortuary

  • The body is examined by a pathologist, forensic dentist, fingerprint officer and Police DVI team.
  •  Personal effects such as jewellery, clothing are photographed, then collected, examined, cleaned, re-photographed and secured.

Phase 3: Ante-mortem Information retrieval

Ante-mortem retrieval is when information is brought in about a missing person from the outside.

  •  Police gather information about possible victims, such as descriptions of appearance, clothing, jewellery, photos medical and dental records, x-rays fingerprints, and  DNA samples.

Phase 4: Reconciliation

  • Information from post-mortem and ante-mortem phases are brought together to find a match.
  •  At an identification hearing, the Coroner is presented evidence of the match by fingerprint, dentistry, DNA and Police DVI experts and decides if identification has been established.
  • Family and/or foreign authorities are advised, then media.

Phase 5: Debrief

People involved in the DVI process keep each other updated throughout all stages.

  • Support and welfare is made available to staff including stress and grief counsellors, chaplains, Victim Support and Police Welfare officers.