Hundreds of people poured into Whakatāne's Baptist Church for a celebration of life for White Island tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman.

The crowd were encouraged to don jerseys from their favourite sports teams. Many wore All Black and Chiefs jerseys as well as bright yellow surf club shirts.

The guide's brother Mark Inman revealed he was known as the funcle - the fun uncle.

"A moment in time has taken my brother," he told the crowd, his voice shaking with emotion.

Advertisement

READ MORE:
White Island eruption: Sydney teen faces finding out his entire immediate family has died
White Island tragedy: Mother and daughter die in bitter twist of fate
Whakaari / White Island: Whakatāne Hospital staff take stress leave
Teen tragedy: White Island victim's legacy will 'never dim'

White Island tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman's brother Mark at his funeral. Photo / Ben Fraser
White Island tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman's brother Mark at his funeral. Photo / Ben Fraser

He personally greeted almost everyone who came through the front doors including Mark Law and his crew from Kahu Helicopters who were involved in rescue efforts after the December 9 eruption.

He paid tribute to the chopper pilots, calling them the first responders who saved lives.

He also paid tribute to the family of Tipene Maangi - a fellow White Island Tours guide who died - and said Te Whānau-ā-Apanui iwi would always be in the families' hearts.

Inman's emotional speech also touched on his brother's love of his nieces and nephews, and of the Chiefs and the All Blacks.

He said his brother was now the guardian of Whakaari and would be the last man off the island.

Inman's daughter spoke of the favourite uncle and all the adventures they went on. Through tears she said her uncle was fearless

She called him "superman".

Advertisement

Marshall-Inman's mother said she would miss her son's texts saying "I love you" and seeing him walking down her driveway.

She said that wherever her son was, it was where he was meant to be.

A eulogy was also read on behalf of Inman's "American" family - he used to work at American holiday camps every year.

Music played throughout the church while photos of him played on the screen.

Hayden Marshall-Inman died in the White island eruption on December 9.
Hayden Marshall-Inman died in the White island eruption on December 9.

The congregation was told he always used to log his trips to White Island. The Monday he died would have been his 1111th trip. The numbers had become significant and at 11.11am there was a minute's silence.

There was standing room only in the main part of the church while additional seating in a second room is filled fast.

The 40-year-old's body has not been found since the eruption on the island on December 9 which killed 16 people.

Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement said this week it was his strong belief his body, along with that of 17-year-old Australian tourist Winona Langford, had been washed off the island and out to sea in a downpour.

Mourners arrive for the service in sports jerseys - a request of the family.
Mourners arrive for the service in sports jerseys - a request of the family.

Clement said a body, believed to be Marshall-Inman, was seen in the water near the jetty on December 11, but the Deodar police boat could not get close enough to recover it. Subsequent searches of the wider area had not been successful.

The search has been scaled back, turning from a national-led operation to a regional one, though resources would still be available as needed.

But Mark Inman said that would not change anything for the family.

He said this week: We are still positive and forever hopeful. You've got to stay that way.

"There are still two bodies out there, one of them being my brother and the other one being Winona.

"As long as there are still people out there looking it makes a difference."

Whether the two would be recovered was "in the hands of Tangaroa".

"We will leave it for him to decide."

Police also attended. Photo / Ben Fraser
Police also attended. Photo / Ben Fraser

Inman's feelings had not changed about the first efforts to save all of those trapped on the island when it erupted, despite not having his brother back yet.

"I guess it was just those final few minutes of the initial response that may or may not have made a difference. But you've also got to remember too that authorities have got systems in place to protect others.

"You've got to trust in the process. Whether you agree with it or not, you've got to trust in the process."

He said communication from police had been good since Clement came on board, and he had no doubt that would continue when the operation was led from the Bay of Plenty.

"The local boys are magic. They will certainly look after us for sure."

Asked about Clement's comment that police did not discourage private aerial searches, Inman said that was normal after an event like this.

"We would go up every day if we could."

He said he had wanted to join the search since the first day - not only for his brother but for all of those initially left on the island.

"Its about getting all eight bodies home. That's been the feeling among the whole community. We saw that on day dot with the helicopter pilots and White Island crew."

The family had been humbled by the support from the Whakatāne community and beyond.

"We're forever grateful for all of the efforts."