news

A 21-year-old Melbourne woman has been named as the ninth Australian White Island victim.

— With AAP.

Melbourne woman Krystal Browitt has been confirmed as the ninth Australian to have died in the New Zealand volcanic eruption as divers continue to search for two bodies near White Island.

NZ police publicly released the 21-year-old’s name after her family were notified on Saturday.

Krystal’s father Paul and her sister Stephanie are currently believed to be receiving treatment for their injuries from the volcanic eruption in a Melbourne hospital. They are supported in hospital by Krystal’s mother Marie, who remained on the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship when her husband and their two daughters visited White Island on a day trip.

Following the news, which was confirmed on Saturday afternoon, Krystal, who had just celebrated her 21st birthday, has been described as a “beautiful soul”.

“I’ve known Krystal and her family as my son has been a very close friend of hers since year seven in high school,” a family friend of the family told The Age.

“Krystal was an absolutely gorgeous girl and whenever she would see me she would run up to me and give me a big hug and kiss,” she added.

“Her very close group of friends are absolutely devastated at this time as they have all been friends for a very long time.”

Mamamia’s daily news podcast, The Quicky, discusses why tourists were allowed on New Zealand’s White Island. Post continues below.

It takes the official death toll to nine, with a presumptive toll of 16.

Nine Australians are confirmed dead, two are presumed to have died and 13 are in hospital with severe burns. However, that may change, with NZ police also confirming on Saturday evening that another victim of the blast had died in hospital, without offering further details.

Some 47 people, including 24 Australian citizens and four permanent residents, were on the island when the volcano erupted last Monday.

Meanwhile, police and navy divers dealt with low visibility and dead fish in contaminated waters off the volcanic island in their attempt to find a seventh and eighth body.

The ground search was not resumed on Saturday, as authorities consider the next steps in their operation to retrieve eight bodies.

The high-stakes recovery mission to Whakaari’s ash-covered surface flew out six bodies on Friday, much to the relief of families.

Police have vowed to continue their search until all eight bodies have been recovered.

Vision of the White Island explosion was captured on camera. Post continues after video.

“The assurance that we give to family and whanau (extended family/community) is that we will continue to put every effort into locating the remaining two missing,” police commissioner Mike Bush said.

ADVERTISEMENT

A debrief following Friday’s operation has prompted a focus on nearby waters.

Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement told AAP there had been nine divers, working to a buddy system, in the water since 7am.

“We learned some stuff yesterday as a result of being on the island,” he said.

“The purpose of the planning day today is to work through the scenarios, with that eighth person, where they could be.

“We’ve got enough evidence to justify deploying that dive squad and the navy dive squad this afternoon.”

The recovery operation is now focused on a ravine that carries water off the island.

“We know that we’ve got two bodies missing,” Mr Clement continued.

“And we haven’t quite got the detail yet but it’s possible that there’s been, quite heavy rain since Monday afternoon.

“The evidence suggests they’re in that ravine but they’re not there and they haven’t been there since we started our (surveillance) overflights.”

The seventh body was sighted in the water in the aftermath of the blast but unreachable due to swells.

The six recovered bodies were flown to Auckland Hospital, where chief coroner Judge Deborah Marshall leads the identification process.

Deputy Commissioner John Tims, the Wellington-based operations commander, warned anxious families and loved ones that the “process is stringent and can take some time”.

“This is a long and complex process and we are working as quickly as possible to return loved ones to their families,” he said.

The eight families spent time with the six bodies – which were in coffins – at Whakatane airport on Friday night before they were taken to Auckland.

On Saturday morning, New Zealand’s geological monitoring agency GNS Science slightly downgraded the threat of a further eruption within the next 24 hours to 35-50 per cent.

This is the lowest chance of further eruption since Monday, but is still drastically higher than before the initial blast.

Feature Image: Facebook.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the Browitt family. You can donate here.

00:00 / ???