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Families of Whakaari/White Island tour guides pay tribute, six months on from disaster

The families of two Whakaari/White Island tour guides have paid tribute to their loved ones, six months on from the disaster.

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Tipene Maangi was among the 21 people who died after the volcano erupted on December 9. Source: 1 NEWS

Tipene Maangi was among the 21 people who died after the volcano erupted on December 9.

"They say time heals, but it doesn’t. Well, for me it doesn't feel like it," Mr Maangi's partner, Kuini Morehu-Waenga, told 1 NEWS.

She says he was a happy family man who'd only recently started as a White Island tour guide.

She was supposed to be with him that day, instead ending up with whānau trying to process what had just happened.

“I just went blank. His sister came running out and said, 'Please tell me my brother's with you, please tell me he didn't go to work.'

“We said, ‘No, he went to work today,’ and she said 'no’ and just dropped."

Mr Maangi sent her a picture of the crater just eight minutes before the eruption.

Two victims, including guide Hayden Marshall-Inman, haven't been found.

Newlyweds recount how dream honeymoon turned to horror as White Island exploded

Today, Mr Marshall-Inman's brother Mark told TVNZ1's Breakfast the grief of losing his brother has brought the family closer.

On the ninth day of each month they go to the water's edge to remember him and the others who died in the disaster.

"Six months on we're doing OK. So, we're going to head out and go fishing and spend a bit of time on the ocean and just remember, I guess," Mark said.

"We remember him every day. We've got the monument of Whakaari on our back door and we see him every morning.

"It's been a journey but it's about resilience. It's wrapping yourself around a community that gives you support and remembering all the good times, you know. You remember the times when you joke and laugh and you're with your brother doing things he used to enjoy and just reminisce, I guess.

"It's brought the family closer together in a lot of ways because now we talk together a lot more often. My sister's overseas so we just keep a better eye on her. So yeah, it's just one of those things.

"Grief, people handle it in different ways, but I think as a community it's certainly brought Whakatāne stronger together."