San Francisco

SF Man Witnesses Deadly New Zealand Volcano Eruption

Family just left White Island moments before the eruption

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A Bay Area man was visiting White Island in New Zealand and had just left Monday when he witnessed a deadly volcanic eruption.

Michael Schade of San Francisco was touring the island with his family and said he can’t get the images out of his mind. It haunts him that others were still trapped on the island, he said.

Five people have been confirmed dead, and eight others missing are feared dead, authorities said.

The volcano erupted with a blast of ash and scalding steam spewing into the sky. Schade captured video on his phone from a boat that had just left White Island.

Schade and his family had walked along the crater’s edge just minutes before the volcano erupted.

"It went from nothing going on at all to suddenly erupting. So it was pretty instantaneous," he said.

Onshore, a helicopter is seen covered in ash, and dozens of tourists are stranded.

"It was traumatic," Schade said. "You think of all the other people who are still on the island, and you are pretty helpless."

Schade's tour boat turned around to help rescue desperate tourists.

"There were some people that were screaming for help and looking for reassurance," he said.

Schade said his family and others on the boat tore up their shirts to make bandages for those who had serious burns.

At least 31 people were injured, including some hospitalized in critical condition.

"It was hard to stop crying long enough to take photos, and then we were crying again," Schade said.

Schade recalled one unusual thing that happened right before the volcano erupted: Bees suddenly started to swarm around them. Tour operators said that was extremely rare.

A volcano monitoring site put the alert level at 2 out of 5 but said it did not pose a direct hazard to visitors. Because of the dangerous conditions, no rescue crews were able to return to the island to search for victims.

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