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American brothers, 13 and 16, killed in New Zealand volcano eruption

Berend "Ben" Hollander, 16, and his brother, Matthew, 13, are the first Americans confirmed to have died in Monday's volcano eruption in New Zealand.
/ Source: TODAY

A pair of teen brothers originally from the Chicago area are dead and their parents are still missing after a volcano erupted this week while they were on New Zealand's White Island.

Berend "Ben" Hollander, 16, and his brother Matthew, 13, are the first Americans confirmed to have died after they succumbed to their injuries at the hospital following the eruption, officials from their school said in a statement.

"It is with the greatest sadness that I can confirm that Matthew Hollander and Berend (known as ‘Ben’) Hollander have passed away in hospital as a result of injuries sustained in the White Island volcano eruption," the headmaster of Knox Grammar School said in a letter obtained by NBC News. "Please take some time to reflect on the lives of Matthew and Ben and this devastating loss for our community."

Teen brothers Matthew (left) and Berend "Ben" Hollander (right) are among those who were killed in a volcano eruption off the coast of New Zealand. TODAY

The boys were on the island with their parents, Martin Hollander, 48, and Barbara Hollander, 50, who have been listed as missing, according to the school.

The boys were born in the Chicago area and then the family moved to Sydney a few years ago, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“They were a great family," a former neighbor told the newspaper. "It was very disturbing to learn what happened."

Matthew Hollander played basketball and squash at the school and was also part of the debate team.

"He was always enthusiastic about life and was actively involved in school and year group activities,'' headmaster Scott James said in a statement.

Ben had "a passion" for baseball as well as Australian rules football, camping and spending time outdoors.

"Ben’s engaging smile and quirky sense of humor made him a good mate to his close group of friends and a welcome member to every classroom,'' James said.

Police believe 47 people were on the island when the volcano erupted, nine of them American.

At least eight people have died and eight more are missing and presumed dead, according to officials. Matt and Lauren Urey, an American couple who were visiting the island on their honeymoon, are in critical condition after suffering severe burns.

Married couple Rick and Ivy Reed from Massachusetts also suffered burns and are out of surgery and in stable condition.

A dangerous mission by the New Zealand military to recover eight bodies from the island, where the volcano has been at its most active in years, was set to begin on Friday.

Authorities have been using reconnaissance flights and drones to pinpoint where six of the bodies are located and have not been able to find the other two.