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Police retract White Island 'criminal' investigation announcement; coroner probe instead

Police have corrected a statement announcing a criminal investigation into the deaths and injuries on White Island yesterday, confirming instead that an investigation will be done on behalf of the coroner.

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A criminal investigation has been launched into the deaths and injuries suffered on White Island yesterday, Deputy Commissioner of Operations John Tims announced. Source: 1 NEWS

Earlier this afternoon, deputy commissioner of operations John Tims announced the launch of the criminal investigation at a media conference.

In a statement this evening, police said it was too early to confirm whether there would also be a criminal probe.

Surveillance photos locate six bodies on White Island, with two people still unaccounted for

The investigation on behalf of the coroner will be carried out in parallel with a WorkSafe New Zealand investigation.

Raw video taken from nearby boat shows ash and smoke spewing from Whakaari/ White Island

“WorkSafe NZ has opened up a health and safety investigation into the harm and loss of life caused by the eruption," Mr Tims said.

“As information comes to hand we will provide updates to everyone."

WorkSafe also issued a statement. 

"As the workplace health and safety regulator and administrator of the Adventure Activities Regulations, WorkSafe will be investigating and considering all of the relevant work health and safety issues surrounding this tragic event," the agency noted. 

Five deaths have already been confirmed as a result of the eruption on Whakaari, with eight missing people presumed dead, Mr Tims said.

At least 12 people also remain in a critical condition.

Mr Tims said emergency services have an idea of where the bodies are on the island from surveillance photos, and the bodies are covered in ash.

Six bodies have been marked in photos, of the eight people unaccounted for.