Tour guide Paul Kingi dragged more than 20 people off Whakaari/White Island in suffocating conditions.

[…] Paul got into an inflatable dinghy and made his way back to the erupting island.

“He just charged back into that crater and was just pulling people off left right and centre – I think he pulled in excess of 20 people out.”

Just as he was giving up hope of finding any more survivors, Rick says Paul saw a figure through the ash.

“He said that the atmosphere was acidic, acrid and just horrible and he was really starting to get concerned for himself when he saw him.

“That was the last person he rescued. And that man, he said, had a full inch of ash all over him.”

[…] Rick says despite having a thick skin, the ordeal was going to be very hard on Paul, particularly given what he witnessed on Monday.

“Paul’s just a legend. I’ve known him for a long time and I’ve never known a more resourceful person, I’ve never met a person who’s able to grasp a situation so quickly and to act so properly every single time.

“I’ve been on an uninhabited island with him shipwrecked for five days and he did all the same things there.

“Nothing that he did on Monday surprised me but I had to mention [it] because they’re talking about the helicopter pilots being heroes – and I have no doubt that they were and are – but Paul flies under the radar so often and he’s just such an incredible guy in every instance and he really showed it yesterday. He really put his life on the line.”

Sunlive