(Reuters) – Victims of New Zealand’s deadly volcanic eruption off White Island were covered in ash and appeared to have been badly burned, said a helicopter rescue pilot who flew them to hospital, as he recounted his experience on Tuesday.
“They were in a fairly serious condition,” said James Tayler to Television New Zealand (TVNZ) network, who flew some victims from Whakatane, the coastal town nearest the eruption site, to hospitals in the cities of Auckland and Hamilton.
“They were pretty poorly … but covered in ash, looking quite badly burned,” said Tayler, adding that the ash had obscured the details of injuries.
Tayler works with the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter emergency service, which joined the rescue effort. Whakatane, on the east coast of North Island, is the main base for tours to White Island, about 50 km (30 miles) away.