New Zealand police open criminal investigation into deadly volcano which claimed five lives

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- New Zealand authorities say a criminal investigation has been opened into the deadly volcano which has left eight missing and dozens injured. The investigation may be centered around how safe it was at the time for tourists to be on White Island at the time of the eruption.

The voice of tourist Michael Schade from San Francisco is heard over incredible video he shot while escaping in a tour boat off the coast of White Island New Zealand where a volcano was erupting.

He tweeted: "my family and I had gotten off the volcano 20 minutes before."

His tour boat was helping to rescue some of the injured, but many boats raced away from the plume of steam and ash flying thousands of feet into the air.

According to officials, dozens of tourists were on or near the island when the volcano erupted with very little warning.

Police said the island was still too dangerous even for rescuers to access.

"It is still too early for police to confirm how many people are involved, we continue to work as quickly as we can," said Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims.

Newlyweds Matt and Lauren Urey from Richmond, Virginia were seriously hurt escaping the eruption. Here's the voicemail Matt left for his mom:

"I just want to let you know this isn't a joke," Urey said. "A volcano erupted while we were on the island, Lauren and I got badly burned, we're in the hospital now in New Zealand."

His mother Janet said getting information about her son has been tough.

Bruce Houghton is a professor of volcanology at the University of Hawaii and once monitored the volcano in New Zealand. He's in San Francisco for an international earth and science conference and questions if tourists should be allowed to get so close.

"With these eruptions the big problem is they come with no warning, It's instantaneous, no time for anyone to react," said Houghton.

Tour operators say there is a danger level of one-to-five near the volcano, with five being highest. At the time of the eruption, the danger level was at a two.
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