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  • Paora Manuel

2019 Eruption Survivors And Victims Families Share Grief, Loss and Pain

The survivors and families of those killed in the 2019 Whakaari White Island eruption spoke of their grief, pain, and loss.


Many of those who read out victim impact statements were reduced to tears, with some having their statements read out by a Victim Support person or a representative from Worksafe.


Six companies are being sentenced for health and safety breaches prior to the eruption.

Whakaari Management Limited (WML), White Island Tours, Volcanic Air Safaris, Aerius, and Kahu NZ are facing fines of up to $1.5 million each and reparations.


On Monday and Tuesday, families of those killed in the eruption spoke of their grief in the years since the eruption, with many breaking down in tears.


Judge Evangelos Thomas told the Environment Court that four years is far too long to hear from survivors and victims' families.


"It's an important moment in the history of the island and the history of the tragedy," Judge Thomas said.


Among the 22 people who perished was White Island Tours guide Tipene Maangi.


Tipene's brother Tawhai Maangi said he would want him to "look after the whanau and take care of them."


Tipene's mother, Paula Maangi, said her daughter also shut down emotionally and stopped going to school.


Maangi said her husband withdrew from the family to deal with grief alone and died in a car accident less than a year after the loss of their son.


The family of Australian man Rick Elzer also spoke in court.


Elzer, his partner Karla Matthews, and friend Jason Griffiths all died from their injuries sustained in the eruption.


Rick's older sister Meika Elzer said the "older sister in her raged" when hearing that WML was found guilty last year.


"The thought that my brother's death was preventable made me question the intentions of the company," Meika Elzer said.


Rick's younger sister, Amelia Elzer, said she was a victim of negligence and recklessness.


"The death of my big brother, my sister-in-law, and my brother's best friend could have been prevented and could have been avoided," Amelia Elzer said.


The mother of White Island Tours guide Hayden Marshall-Inman, Avey Woods, said a piece of her died when Hayden died in the eruption.


"My heart carries the loss of him day and night," Woods said.


Woods said, "you cannot mend a broken mother's heart."


American Lauren Urey gave a statement via a pre-recorded video.


Lauren and her husband Matthew Urey gave evidence at last year's criminal trial.


Urey broke down when describing the feeling of having her hair shaved off during treatment.


"I felt like everyone was always staring at me, wondering what was wrong with me and what

happened," Urey said.


Urey said it took two years to grow back to a certain length where she did not feel self-conscious.


Many other submissions were submitted to Judge Thomas while several were suppressed at the victim's request.


When the victim impact statements were finished being read out, Judge Thomas

acknowledged those who read them out, including the families and spokespeople.


Judge Thomas also said everyone involved gave so much of themselves before leading a minute's silence in the courtroom to remember those who died in the eruption.


The sentencing hearing continues.


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