Whakaari/White Island survivor Jake Milbank makes emotional return to the place that changed his life forever

One of the two Kiwi survivors of the Whakaari/White Island disaster has made an emotional return to the volcano nine months on.

White Island Tours guide Jake Milbank suffered horrific burns on December 9, 2019, when the volcano off the coast of Whakatane exploded, shooting huge plumes of smoke and ash into the sky.

The 19-year-old, who was left with excruciating burns to 80 percent of his body that will require him needing treatment for the rest of his life, was interviewed for The Eruption: Stories of Survival - a documentary that aired on Three on Monday night.

But it could all have been so different - his mother Janet revealing he hadn't even planned to be working that day, but had been called in at the last minute.

His decision to go to work that day nearly cost Jake his life. He remembers the moment he escaped the island, saying he remembers looking at his arm and seeing his skin hanging off it.

"I went to grab one of the rails on the wharf and the skin on my palm just slid off," he said.

"I just flopped myself down off the wharf into the boat. Jacquie was in the front and I kind of just flopped down into her lap.

"I was looking at myself and thinking 'okay, we're bad but we're off the island - I'm alive, just gotta make the trip home'."

Milbank and fellow survivor Kelsey Waghorn were kept alive by others on the boat, who used freshwater tanks to keep a constant stream of water running over their vast burns.

Somehow, they stayed alive long enough to get back to Whakatane and then to the hospital, where they received treatment for months before being released.

Now, nearly a year after the tragedy, Milbank has made an emotional return to White Island - a place close to heart that nearly took his life.

Travelling to the volcano on his father's boat, Milbank was able to stand on the stern and remember everything that happened that day.

"I never feel any anger towards the island. I have great respect for that place," he said. "It's a magical place, you know? It's beautiful."

Nor does he have any anger about what happened to him on December 9. He says he feels for the victims and their families, and just feels fortunate to have survived to tell his story.

"I guess I've basically been given a second chance, haven't I? So I'm not going to waste it."

The Eruption: Stories of Survival aired on Three on Monday night. You can watch it here on ThreeNow.