White Island eruption: The moment helicopter pilot recognised friend among victims

A helicopter pilot dubbed a hero by the family of a man whose body was discovered on White Island just after the eruption, wishes he could have done more to bring him back. 

Tom Storey was building a house when he got a call from his colleague Mark Law to say the volcano was looking "pretty active". 

He dropped his tools and "booted down" to Frontier Helicopters, to get to White Island.

Once there, Storey recognised his friend, Hayden Marshall-Inman, who was "beyond help".

"I just pulled him out from where he was and made him as comfortable as I could just so he’s there as we go back to get him," he told Newshub National Correspondent Patrick Gower. 

After moving his body to a safe spot, they carried on saving the other tourists. 

Storey says the conditions were "very dusty" and it felt like he was "running through talcum powder." 

"Just very fine dust. Very hard to breathe. Actually extremely hard to breathe," he said. 

"Without a gas mask, you were gasping for air. But we were equipped with the right gear and we did what we could to help." 

Hayden (pictured) didn't survive the eruption. His body now lies on a rise beside a stream.
Hayden (pictured) didn't survive the eruption. His body now lies on a rise beside a stream. Photo credit: Faecbook.

He wasn't put off at the thought of flying into an extremely dangerous situation. 

"I’d rather break a few rules and save some lives than sit here wondering what we could’ve done," he said. 

Storey wanted to go back and get Hayden but was instructed not to go back out - a decision he found "pretty hard to take". 

"You kinda want a bit of closure for the families and yourself. You never want to start a job and not finish it. 

"Hopefully, fingers crossed we can get out there as soon as we can and recover him and the rest." 

His focus now is getting Hayden home. 

Storey says the emergency services all did an "awesome job" and everyone pulled together as a community.

The family has expressly thanked everyone involved, including Storey, yet he's still overwhelmed with a feeling he could have done more to get Hayden back sooner. 

"I just did what I could do to make him as comfortable as he could be and made sure we could get him out of there as soon as we can." 

Hayden's bother, Mark Inman, says his sibling was filling in as a guide on Monday when the tragedy occurred. 

"He was a guy that would do anything for anyone. I read a post from someone on Facebook yesterday or last night, saying he leaves $5 in the local dairy for whoever can't afford something, every week he goes in." 

He says the family has some peace of mind knowing Hayden is at peace and safe.

"He died doing what he absolutely loved and you can't ask for anything more."

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