The White Island volcanic eruption has brought back harrowing memories for an Auckland adventurer who lost his leg when he was crushed by rocks, debris and mud 12 years ago.

William Pike, 34, fears visitors to White Island may suffer traumatic injuries and burns due to the similarities between the volcanic gas eruption today and the one he was caught in on Mt Ruapehu in 2007 when rocks and debris came crushing down on him.

Pike, who runs the youth development programme William Pike Challenge, was staying in Dome Shelter with fellow teacher James Christie when the crater lake spilled over, sending a lahar rushing down the mountainside.

William Pike. Photo / NZ Herald
William Pike. Photo / NZ Herald

Pike recalls seeing the sky filling with debris, and a blast of wind rushing towards him causing the hot rocks to smash against his body.


"I was getting stung on the side of the face by small pieces of rock ... and it was a horrific situation to be in."

Water then rushed into the hut submerging the bottom half of his body in water. Christie, a first-time climber, had escaped the falling rocks and tried to free his friend.

He tried cutting him out with his hand, ice hack and shovel before grabbing Pike's jacket and his shoes and running down the mountain for help. He eventually came across a snowcat driver, who then transported eight rescuers.

"My burns weren't significant, they were minor. I would assume it depends on the situation around what the volcano is ejecting and where you are," Pike said.

"It looks like part of it was a steam or gas eruption so if you were close to that steam or gas then I would assume you would cop some burns unfortunately."

Pike was left with small surface burns the size of 50 cent coins scattered on his nose, ears and back, while the lower part of his body was trapped in the piling debris crushing his right leg, which had to be amputated, and damaging his left leg.

His thoughts went out to the victims who he said would need huge support from friends and family as they recovered.

William Pike returned to climb Mt Ruapehu in 2017, 10 years after he lost his lower right leg in a volcanic explosion there. Photo / File
William Pike returned to climb Mt Ruapehu in 2017, 10 years after he lost his lower right leg in a volcanic explosion there. Photo / File

"I guess both situations were very remote and that adds in a huge complexity around getting to those people with search and rescue and we've already seen that with people getting stuck on the island.


"From my point of view what a difficult situation to be put in - to be abandoned on an island with an erupting volcano. I can't think of anything worse."

Pike had to wait five hours before being rescued and tried to fill his mind with positive thoughts, thinking about friends, family and exploring the great outdoors.

He said along with the physical injuries the survivors would also face a challenging night on the island.

Mt Ruapehu amputee William Pike to summit Antarctica's Mt Scott to inspire other Kiwis
Toko School pupils participate in William Pike Challenge
Fairfield School students donate through William Pike challenge
Weekend Herald editorial: Climber would not let loss of a leg keep him down