A young Whakatane man among those killed in the White Island eruption has been described as having the "kindest heart" and someone who would help pay for strangers' groceries.

The Herald understands the man is Hayden Marshall-Inman, an experienced guide for White Island Tours.

Former Whakatane mayor Tony Bonne said he was "a young energetic man who's lost his life".

Hayden Marshall-Inman died after the eruption at White Islands on Monday afternoon.
Hayden Marshall-Inman died after the eruption at White Islands on Monday afternoon.

Friends and family have posted tributes to the man online, remembering the kind nature of the man who died "doing the one thing he loved."

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At a press conference this morning, police and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed five people had died, 31 were in hospital and eight were misisng.

There had been several reconnaissance flights over the island since the eruption.

"No signs of life have been seen at any point," Ardern said.

Travellers to White Island remembered Marshall-Inman as passionate and kind.

"Honestly, his kind spirit and warmth was my favorite part of our trip to New Zealand," one wrote.

Friends and family, very sad news this evening. My bro Hayden Marshall-Inman has past away doing the one thing he loved. Thanks for all your messages. I’ll be in touch when we know more.

Posted by Mark Inman on Sunday, 8 December 2019

Others remembered his smile and generosity.

"I worked at the Ohope 4 Square and whenever he came in and made a purchase he always gave us $5 to pay towards the next person's groceries, he had the kindest heart, it was never about him, he definitely created a ripple affect of happiness to others," a local wrote.

Marshall-Inman's employer White Island Tours Limited released a media statement late last night, saying it was "deeply saddened" at the volcano's significant eruption.

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"Devastation is an understatement," Paul Quinn, Chairman for White Island Tours said.

"This is a terrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been impacted."

Quinn said the company's immediate focus was on supporting the staff, manuhiri and respective whānau, who had been "significantly impacted were showing immense strength and courage."

White Island Aaerial view after the volcanic eruption. Photo / George Novak
White Island Aaerial view after the volcanic eruption. Photo / George Novak

Both New Zealand and overseas tourists were believed to be among the dead, a number of them from the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship.

Police said they were working to urgently confirm the exact number of those who died, further to the five that were confirmed as dead on Monday evening.

The Police Eagle helicopter, rescue helicopter, and NZDF aircraft all undertook flights over the island after its eruption 2.11pm yesterday.

Twenty-three people were taken from the island.

A number of people have suffered burns from the eruption and are in hospital.

One visitor recounted a tour on the volcano with Marshall-Inman, saying she wasn't in the best health and he adjusted their route.

"I went on a tour with Hayden, to White Island in July, I don't have good health so your beautiful brother, stayed with me & took me on an easier track, we had so much fun... he held my hand to steady me," she wrote.

"There was not a more genuine, kind, loving soul on this planet than Hayden. Completely devastating and my heart goes out to the Inman family," another wrote.

White Island Aaerial view after the volcanic eruption. Photo / George Novak
White Island Aaerial view after the volcanic eruption. Photo / George Novak

White Island Tours Limited was also assisting police and Civil Defence with the official emergency response, Quinn said.

"We acknowledge the considerable efforts from Police and Civil Defence and will continue to do whatever is necessary throughout the rescue operation."

The Police Disaster Identification (DVI) team are assembling in Whakatane to await deployment.

A NZDF ship will approach the perimeter of the island at first light on Tuesday and deploy drones and observational equipment to further assess the environment as part of the recovery, the statement said.

The 105 police number can be used to submit information regarding friends or family who might have been visiting White Island during the eruption and those overseas can call People from +64 9105 105.

READ MORE:
Live: White Island erupting: At least five people dead; cruise ship tourists missing
Scientist: White Island eruption was 'basically instantaneous'
White Island erupting: Five dead and the toll expected to rise
100 people on Whakaari/White Island when it erupted