Georgia man burned in New Zealand volcano eruption dies 5 weeks after wife’s death, leaves behind 3 kids
A Georgia man died Tuesday from severe burns suffered in a New Zealand volcanic eruption last month, just five weeks after his wife succumbed to similar injuries, a family member said.
Pratap Singh, 49, and his 42-year-old wife, Mayuari, are survived by their twin 6-year-old girls and an 11-year-old boy, the couple's nephew Vick Singh said in a statement. He wrote that they might have been saved if the tourism operator provided proper safety equipment.
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Known as Paul and Mary, the Atlanta-area couple had been visiting New Zealand's White Island volcano with dozens of other tourists on Dec. 9 when it erupted, scalding them with super-heated water from below the crater surface.
“I visited Paul and Mary every day since Dec. 10 while they were at the Middlemore Hospital, the last 50 days of my life were distressing, slow and agonizing painful," Vick Singh wrote. “Proper safety equipment would have saved my family.”
Paul battled for 50 days before dying from the burns to 55 percent of his body, with doctors describing him as a fighter after undergoing multiple surgeries and treatments, Singh said. Mary had suffered burns to 72 percent of her body and died Dec. 22.
“We miss them dearly and their memories are going to stay fresh in our hearts and minds for the times to come,” Singh wrote. “This changes everything, a new normal might be impossible to achieve for our family.”
Several victims have died in the hospital in the weeks since the eruption, bringing the death toll to 21.
The island was crowded with 47 tourists from around the world when the eruption occurred, including 24 from Australia, nine Americans, two from China, four from Germany, five from New Zealand, two from the United Kingdom, and one person from Malaysia.
Burns units at hospitals across the country were at full capacity treating 29 of the rescued victims. New Zealand ordered 1,290 square feet of skin from the U.S. to treat the dozens of victims suffering severe burns. Doctors have said the recovery process would take several months.
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Tourists who had visited the island immediately before the eruption told The Associated Press they were provided with minimal safety equipment such as hard hats and optional gas masks, which they could wear if they had trouble breathing.
Singh has called on volcano tourism operators to provide heat-resistant clothing, safety glasses, helmets, and masks.
Tour operator White Island Tours has so far declined to comment in detail on what went wrong that day, according to The Associated Press.
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New Zealand authorities are investigating the circumstances around the disaster. Many have questioned why tourists were allowed on the island after authorities raised its alert level three weeks before the eruption.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.