It's no surprise that the fatal eruption of the White Island volcano in December in New Zealand is raising serious questions about the safety preparedness of adventure tour operators.
A heartbroken family member of two victims of December’s White Island eruption in New Zealand has lashed tour operators and raised questions as to whether they would be alive if more extensive safety precautions had been taken.
Bhupender “Vick” Singh, the nephew of married Americans Pratap “Paul” Singh and Mayuri “Mary” Singh, travelled to NZ after the eruption to care for the pair.
Mary Singh died on 22 December. Paul died on Tuesday night. Both were in Auckland’s Middlemore hospital after suffering burns to more than 50% of their bodies.
On Thursday night Vick Singh released a statement saying he was devastated at their deaths, and blaming operators White Island Tours.
“I visited Paul and Mary every day since December 10 while they were at the Middlemore hospital,” he said. “The last 50 days were distressing, slow and agonisingly painful.
“Proper safety equipment would have saved my family.
“I seriously request and encourage volcano tourism in NZ and around the world to charter proper safety equipment including appropriate heat resistant gear/clothing, safety glasses, helmets and face masks.
“Tours should not be operated without comprehensive disclosure of risks associated, and a complete assessment of geothermal and seismic activity.”
The deadly blast is the subject of two inquiries: a coronial investigation and another by Worksafe, NZ’s workplace investigator.
The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has not ruled out a royal commission into the eruption, which has claimed 21 lives.
Among the dead are 14 Australians and a number of people are still receiving care in Australian and New Zealand hospitals.
The Singhs were visiting White Island from Atlanta, Georgia, where they were well known in the city’s Indian community.
Vick Singh described his uncle as an “invincible businessman” and Mary as “a true supermom”.
“His unmatched exuberance and unconditional love for everyone around him will forever be missed,” he said.
“He was the best father, best guardian, best brother, best uncle, best volunteer and the best friend anyone could wish.”
Although he was savage in his criticism of the tour operators, he thanked those who had cared for his family.
“We would like to commend and acknowledge the doctors/consultants, nurses and the administrative staff of Middlemore hospital for their efforts in providing best medical attention and care possible in New Zealand,” he said.
“We offer our sincere condolences and do share the pain and sorrow of the families who have lost their loved ones in this tragic incident.”
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Photo Credit: A volcano eruption on White Island, New Zealand. Michael Schade / AP