The anniversary of the White Island tragedy today is a “heartbreaking” moment for Australian families who lost loved ones a year ago.
Among them was South Australian man Gavin Dallow, who died along with his wife’s daughter, Zoe Hosking, when the volcano erupted. Gavin’s wife Lisa suffered burns to more than 60 percent of her body.
The couple were among 47 people on the island at the time of the eruption: 24 Australians, nine Americans, five New Zealanders, four Germans, two Chinese, two British and one Malaysian.
Brian Dallow, Gavin’s father, told nine.com.au that the anniversary was proving to be a painful time for him and his wife.
Twelve months later, he said that the pain they felt had been exacerbated.
“It hasn’t disappeared at all … I feel worse now than 12 months ago,” he said.
Dallow said the anniversary had brought little sense of closure.
And today is “especially emotional” for the family of the Brisbane woman, Julie Richards, and her daughter Jessica, who were murdered on White Island.
A family spokesperson said it was a “heartbreaking moment” for Julie’s brother, Michael Eborn, and other family members ahead of Christmas.
“This is an especially emotional time of year for the Richards family as it occurs on the first anniversary of a tragedy that claimed the lives of two very dear family members,” he said.
“This anniversary is heartbreaking for our family and for all those who lost loved ones in what should have been a happy vacation.
“It’s especially heartbreaking that it happens so close to Christmas, which is a time of family reunions and celebrations.”
Nineteen of the 22 people who died were from the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship, most of whom were Australians.
A public event to commemorate the eruption will be held today at 9.30am AEDT in Whakatāne in New Zealand.
A minute’s silence will be observed at 12.11pm AEDT.
Security regulator imposes charges
Last week, New Zealand’s workplace safety regulator filed charges against 13 parties involved in the tragedy.
New Zealand police are also conducting an investigation.
Brian Dallow and the Richards family appreciated the move.
“I don’t think there will be a real closure, but I would like to get to New Zealand for the final part of the investigation and see what happens.”
Mr Dallow said that after the deadly eruption he had wondered why the victims were not wearing proper clothing and footwear, as well as proper gas masks.
“You won’t bring him back, will you? But I think someone should be held accountable,” he said.
The other Australian victims included the entire Hollander family from Sydney.
Father Martin was an Australian citizen.
Their children Matthew and Berend were US citizens and permanent residents of Australia, as was their mother Barbara.
Krystal Browitt of Melbourne was the first Australian victim to be formally identified.
His father Paul Browitt died in January in hospital from injuries sustained during the eruption. His sister Stephanie survived with severe burns.
Sydney residents Kristine and Anthony Langford and their teenage daughter Winona were killed.
Young couple Karla Mathews and Richard Elzer, from the north coast of New South Wales, were killed in the eruption, as well as Ms Mathews’ friend from Coffs Harbor Jason Griffiths.
How the White Island Disaster Unfolded
2.10pm: The GNS Science webcam on the rim of the White Island crater shows a trail of ants from tourists observing New Zealand’s most active volcano. A minute later, the always inflated cone blows its top.
2.17pm: Police are alerted to the disaster after frantic tourists and tour guides flee the toxic smoke and debris that cloud the island. The ash cloud rises to over 3,600 meters, far enough to see from satellites.
2.24pm: Tour guides take inflatables from the tour boat to rescue the ash-covered people huddling on the dock. At least five are in critical condition.
2.40pm: Rescue efforts begin from the air, with Westpac rescue helicopters, two private helicopters, and a Volcanic Air tour helicopter rushing to help. Between them, they carry 12 patients and take them to the hospital.
3.26pm: Whakatane Hospital enters in response to massive casualties, treating more critically ill patients in 12 hours than it normally receives in 12 months. Five will not make it. Some patients have burns on more than 50 percent of their bodies.
9 pm: Police confirm that five people have died. Three of them are Australian. A seven-year-old Australian boy later finds himself safely with his family in Whakatane.
12 am: Authorities announce that no further searches and rescues will be attempted overnight. A police helicopter, a rescue helicopter and defense force aircraft reconnoitred, but saw no signs of life.