Watch CBSN Live

5 New Zealand volcano victims identified

Death total raised to 15 in volcano eruption

Police on Saturday identified five victims of the deadly volcanic eruption in New Zealand. The December 9 eruption claimed 15 lives, thus far, with two more missing but presumed dead. 

The first victim identified was Krystal Eve Browitt, a 21-year-old Australian. Browitt's father and sister were also on the island at the time of the eruption. Both remain in the hospital with serious injuries.

Police later identified Tipene James Te Rangi Ataahua Maangie, 24, Zoe Ella Hosking, 15, Gavin Brian Dallow, 53, and Anthony James Langford, 51.

New Zealand officials continue to search for two more people who are missing on the island. Both are presumed dead. 

A photo from Krystal Browitt's Facebook page. Browitt, 21, was the first victim identified after New Zealand's White Island volcanic eruption. Krystal Browitt

Recovering the bodies is considered a high risk mission due to the conditions on the island. Recuse teams in gas masks and hazmat suits can only stay on the island for 75 minutes at a time. Scientists say the volcanic gasses being emitted on White Island are so toxic that a single breath could be deadly.

While scientists said the possibility of a second eruption appeared to have receded, White Island remains "highly volatile."  

Specialist teams returned to the island Sunday morning to resume a land search for the bodies, but came up empty. Two four-person teams landed on the island by helicopter around 8 a.m. local time.

"We know that time of the essence but the reality is, for the time being, we've recovered the six obvious bodies but we've got more work to do. We've got two more and we are determined to get them back," said Mike Clement, New Zealand Deputy Police Commissioner.

"They will be wearing the same protective clothing as the eight New Zealand Defense Force personnel who were on the island on Friday," Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims said before the search got underway.

"We remain committed to finishing the task at hand and returning the two remaining bodies to their loved ones," he added. 

Many of the victims were passengers from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Royal Caribbean told CBS News it is now suspending tours of active volcanoes. The New Zealand government also faces questions about why tourists were allowed access to an active volcano site.

View CBS News In