Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas has left the Bay of Plenty today as the death toll from New Zealand’s horrific volcano explosion rose to six.
A further eight people are presumed dead on the island after the eruption on White Island, including a family of four from Sydney. A number remain in hospital, some with critical burns.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has already said that investigations by police and others will consider why tourists were allowed onto the island when warnings had been given about the activity of the volcano.
A police statement last night said: “We have commenced an investigation into the circumstances of the deaths and injuries on Whakaari/White Island. The terms of reference will be developed in the coming days.”
Several people missing from Monday’s volcano eruption on White Island were passengers aboard the Ovation of the Seas.
A Royal Caribbean spokesperson said last night the vessel “will remain in port as long as needed to assist with the situation.” Today, is was reported on its way to Wellington. It will be back in Sydney on Monday.
A Sydney family from the North Shore is currently still missing, and it is confirmed that they were passengers on the ship.
There are serious concerns for the Langford family with Anthony, 51, his wife Kristine and their children Jesse, 19 and Winona 17. Relatives said they have not heard from them.
The family of four were on Ovation of the Seas as part of a family holiday for Anthony’s birthday.
Last night, Lisa Dallow was found alive in hospital after fears for her safety. But her Lawyer husband Gavin Dallow, 53, and their 15-year-old daughter Zoe Hosking from Adelaide, who were also on a cruise, were still missing.
It’s believed 24 people from Ovation of the Seas were visiting White Island when it erupted at 2:11pm on Monday afternoon, sending a plume of smoke and ash 3,700 metres into the air.
Thirteen Australians are said to be in hospital and 11 are either missing, dead or unaccounted for.
First hand accounts are starting to emerge about what happened during and after the swift and terrible eruption.
And questions are also being raised, after news that experts reported increased volcanic activity from the volcano in the weeks leading up to Monday’s tragedy.
Deputy Tims said the investigation will be opened in conjunction with WorkSafe New Zealand.
“The terms of reference will be developed over the next few days. This will be carried out in parallel with the WorkSafe New Zealand investigation. WorkSafe New Zealand has opened a health and safety investigation into the harm and loss of life caused by the eruption,” he said.
“I just want to say that we absolutely believe that everyone that could be taken from the island yesterday were rescued at the time of the evacuation.”
An agency that monitors geological hazards, GeoNet, had issued a number of “volcanic unrest” reports on the island.
According to the NZ website Stuff, they said on Tuesday: “Moderate volcanic unrest continues at Whakaari/White Island, with substantial gas, steam and mud bursts observed at the vent located at the back of the crater lake.”
The volcano was suspected to be entering a period where eruptive activity was more likely than normal, according to the report.
Tour operators make the final decision about whether to take visitors to the privately owned island where access is controlled through permits.
A total of forty-seven tourists from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Malaysia and China were on the volcano when it erupted.
Thirty-four people made it off the island by helicopter or boat. Thirty-one remain in hospital and three have been discharged.
Paramedics have told news sources that they saw horrific injuries with some victims suffering burns to 90 per cent to their bodies.
American newlyweds were on their honeymoon travelling through New Zealand on Ovation of the Seas. Lauren and her husband Matthew Urey, aged 32 and 36 were on White Island when it erupted.
Lauren’s mother told The Washington Post that she received a troubling phone call from her son-in-law Matthew who said ‘there had been a volcano eruption and they were burned very badly.’
Ms Barham told The Washington Post, “He said he would try to call as soon as he could but talking and making phone calls was difficult. His hands were so badly burned it was hard for him to make a phone call.”
She only became aware of the situation unfolding on the other side of the world until Royal Caribbean called her just after midnight to tell her that her daughter and new son-in-law had not returned to she ship.
An Auckland hospital representative called Mrs Barham to tell her that Lauren was in surgery, and suffered severe burns covering at least 20 per cent of her body.
Matthew was airlifted to hospital in Christchurch to treat burns to 80 per cent of his body.
A first responder told the New Zealand Herald his harrowing account of those critically injured from the eruption.
Geoff Hopkins was given a trip to White Island for his birthday by his daughter. They had just visited the island and their boat was doing a final circle of the crater when it erupted.
“As we turned to start heading back, there was just this gasp across the boat and I looked up.
“I could just see this plume of white and grey rising quite high and quite quickly,” Hopkins said.
“But then the ash rolled up over the rock face and as it rolled over, it became quite menacing.”
He said, that’s when he saw people who were still on the island, run to the sea to escape the eruption. The crew on their boat launched an inflatable to pick up victims.
My Hopkins and his daughter, who are trained in first aid, along with two doctors from England and Slovenia, started aiding the injured.
“Everyone else was horrifically burnt. People were in shorts and T-shirts so there was a lot of exposed skin that was massively burnt,” he told the New Zealand Herald.
“Their faces were massively burnt.
“But there were also huge burns under people’s clothes. So their clothes looked fine, but when you cut them off … I’ve never seen blisters like that.”
Mr Hopkins said people were screaming in pain and those on the boat started cutting clothes off victim’s burned bodies, wrapping them in foil blankets and pouring fresh water on them.
He said he spent a lot of time with a young couple who were drifting in and out of consciousness.
“My fear now is that they didn’t make it. There were five critical people on our boat and there’s been five fatalities confirmed … they were just so badly burnt,” he said.
Only one of the deceased has been named so far, New Zealand tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman. His fellow tour guide Tipene Maangi, 23 is also missing.
The captain of Ovation of the Seas gave guests onboard earlier this morning, an update on what was going on and has offered counselling to passengers.
“Any guest that may who have been injured are being cared for in local hospitals, local staff members from the ship and our local offices are with impacted family members to ensure they are being taken care of and as that they are comfortable as possible.
“We are doing everything possible to help. We kindly ask to keep this guests and crew in your prayers. It has been an unfathomable sequence of events.”
It is unclear how many of the missing, injured or deceased are passengers from Ovation of the Seas.
Staff from Ovation of the Seas as well as Royal Caribbean’s Sydney and Auckland office are currently on the ground assisting with rescue efforts.
The news from White Island is devastating. The details that are continuing to emerge are heartbreaking
“We are working to help our guests and the authorities in the aftermath of this tragedy in any way we can,” the cruise line said in a statement.
“We are communicating with our guests and their families. We’re making sure they are taken care of in terms of medical help, counselling, accommodations, and transport. Our hearts go out to them, and we want to be as supportive as we can.”
Family members with questions about the status of relatives traveling aboard Ovation of the Seas may call us on the below numbers:
Australian residents – 1300 026 240
New Zealand residents – 0800 002 141