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International News

Meet the volcano disaster heroes who charged back into the crater to save others

Boat captain Paul Kingi displayed ‘superhuman’ heroism to save the lives of Aussie tourists trapped on New Zealand’s death volcano.

By Phillip Koch
Paul escaped White Island just minutes before the deadly eruption on the New Zealand island, but rather than fleeing the danger, the humble hero turned his boat around and raced straight back into the terrifying heart of the unfolding disaster.
"He went back again and again, ignoring the toxic environment and personal risk, until he was satisfied there were no more obvious survivors remaining," reveals White Island Tours workmate Rick Pollock.
Paul (left) and Mark (right) risked their lives to save others. Image: Channel Seven

Brave heroes

"This superhuman effort doesn't surprise me in the least as I've seen this fine man in action on numerous occasions, always controlling a bad situation."
He was just one of a number of incredibly brave tour operators and helicopter pilots, including Mark Law, who put their own safety aside to try to save as many people as possible when the volcano erupted at 2.11pm on December 9.
"I flew over and spotted where people were, found a place to land... a lot of people had clothes blown off, their burns were quite significant," says Mark.
"Most of the folks were lying down or on their sides, some starfished, some sitting. No one was standing."
WATCH: Footage captured at the scene shows tourists scrambling for safety after the volcano erupted. Story continues below...
There were 13 Australians rescued from White Island, which is situated in the North Island's Bay of Plenty, including former Marist College North Shore student Jesse Langford, 19, who was feared dead until he was found in a New Zealand hospital last Wednesday.
His parents Anthony and Kristine and his sister Winona, 17, were still listed as missing when Jesse was found, severely injured but thankfully alive.
There were 13 Australian tourists rescued from White Island. Image: Getty
Queensland hospitals are on standby to treat burns victims. Image: Sky News
There were 47 people on the volcano when it erupted, including 24 Australians on a day trip from the Royal Caribbean cruise liner Ovation Of The Seas, aged between 17 and 72.
Six are confirmed dead and several more still are missing, feared entombed in the volcanic ash carpeting White Island, which is also known as Whakaari.
The total death toll could reach 14, including the missing Aussies. There were another 30 people injured, 25 of them critically.
With authorities committed to investigating how this disaster happened, particularly after the threat level of an eruption was raised two weeks ago, heroic stories continue to emerge.
Paul was the first back on the island after the eruption, leaping into action, rescuing and assisting injured people back onto waiting boats.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs on of the first responders. Image: Getty

Stepping up

"Kingi put his life in danger," revealed his mate Rick, who was devastated by the death of fellow tour guide, Hayden Marshall-Inman, who was the first confirmed victim to be named last week.
"As with most disasters there will be people who step up, heroes and heroines if you will.
"Sometimes the people will be the ones you expect, strong individuals in character and strength. Other times it's the ones you least expect who take control of an arduous situation to the benefit of all involved. Yesterday was no exception with one man standing out, one Paul Kingi."

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