Volcano tragedy: ‘They were together when they passed’

 

As families of those killed in the volcanic eruption prepared to observe a minute's silence a week on from the tragedy, one family was finally told the news their son was among the dead.

The family of Richard "Rick" Elzer, 32, were on board HMNZS Wellington - looking towards Whakaari/White Island - yesterday when their son and brother's death was officially confirmed.

A statement from the Elzer family was released via the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs last night.

"Words cannot describe how honoured we feel to have had this minute's silence blessed with a traditional karakia followed by the Navy crew performing a haka as we looked upon Whakaari," it said.

"It has brought our family great relief to know that Rick was with the love of his life, Karla Mathews, at the time of the eruption and that they were together when they passed.

Australian tourists Rick Elzer and Karla Mathews were together when the eruption happened on White Island.
Australian tourists Rick Elzer and Karla Mathews were together when the eruption happened on White Island.


'OUR HEARTS ARE WITH YOU'

"Together with Karla's family, we will now be able to bring them home."

The family had a special message for those still waiting to hear news of their loved ones.

"To the families who still await confirmation that their loved one has passed and to those injured in the eruption - our hearts are with you."

They thanked New Zealand Police and Navy for their work in the search and recovery of victims; as well as Australian authorities and the Royal Caribbean cruise liner for their continued support of them.

"We especially want to thank the Ngāti Awa peoples of Whakatāne who have welcomed us so warmly into their community and nurtured us through this time of grief. We are whānau now."

 

TWO BODIES REMAIN ON WHITE ISLAND:

Efforts to find two remaining bodies on Whakaari/White Island have been hampered by poor weather this morning.

A Police Eagle helicopter left the mainland about 5.45am to carry out another aerial search of Whakaari/White Island, but was forced to turn back.

"Conditions are being assessed to determine the viability of a second attempt by Eagle or a shoreline search by boat later this morning," police said.

The Police National Dive Squad will not be in the water today, the statement said.

Authorities earlier confirmed that Mr Elzer's partner, 32-year-old Karla Mathews, had also died in the eruption.

The family of Mr Elzer, left, were on board HMNZS Wellington – looking towards White Island – when their son’s death was officially confirmed.
The family of Mr Elzer, left, were on board HMNZS Wellington – looking towards White Island – when their son’s death was officially confirmed.

The couple had been travelling with a friend - Jason Griffiths, 33 - and were passengers on the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship.

Griffiths was also among the dead, after dying from his injuries in hospital.

Mathews' family released a statement earlier this week revealing that she was one of six people whose bodies were recovered from Whakaari/White Island last Friday.

"Our family is absolutely heartbroken and our big sister will be incredibly missed.

"We have an enormous sense of relief that she has finally been found and we patiently wait with the Elzer family for news of Karla's partner Rick so we are able to bring them home together."

Karla Mathews and Rick Elzer from Coffs Harbour died in the White Island volcano eruption. Picture: Supplied
Karla Mathews and Rick Elzer from Coffs Harbour died in the White Island volcano eruption. Picture: Supplied

The Mathews family thanked both New Zealand and Australian authorities for their help and work to help all families involved and affected by last week's eruption.

"We would like to especially thank the New Zealand Police for their unwavering efforts towards reuniting all families with their lost loved ones."

This article originally appeared on the New Zealand Herald and was reproduced with permission

Rick’s family said their son was with the love of his life when he died.
Rick’s family said their son was with the love of his life when he died.


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