A Sydney teen who remains in a coma following the White Island volcano eruption faces the devastating prospect of waking to news he is the lone survivor from his family’s holiday to celebrate his father’s birthday.
Jesse Langford, 19, who has suffered burns to nearly all of his body, was too feared dead until he was identified in a New Zealand hospital before he was later transferred to Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital.
On Wednesday, police confirmed the chances of them ever finding the body of Jesse’s 17-year-old sister, Winona, were extremely slim.
She is the only Australian who was on the island, 50km off the coast of Whakatane, who is unaccounted for and is feared dead. Authorities say her body was likely washed into surrounding waters.
“The reality is we’ve dived in the area where the body was last seen and we can’t find it,” deputy commissioner Mike Clement told Radio NZ.
“We are literally in the hands of the sea.”
Their parents Anthony Langford 51, and Kristine Langford, 45, were both killed during the eruption last Monday during what was meant to be a time of celebration for the family.
In a family statement on Wednesday, the couple were remembered as selfless parents who cared deeply for their family.
“Anthony and Kristine, loving parents to Jesse and Winona, were a wonderful couple and devoted to both their immediate and extended families. They will be greatly missed by all who knew them,” the statement said, according to The Australian.
The statement added Jesse was receiving “excellent care” in hospital as he fights for life.
The Willoughby community in Sydney’s north, which the family were a part of and well known, has been rocked by the news, NSW Premier and Willoughby MP Gladys Berejiklian said.
“This tragedy has had a profound impact on our local community,” she told The Australian.
Winona has been remembered as a keen artist.
She is one of two people yet to be found from the island, with authorities also unable to locate Whakatane tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman.
Mr Marshall-Inman had a long fascination with the volcano, with his final visit being his 1111th to the island.
"The only positive that would come out of him not returning is his absolute love of the island and his passion for White Island,” his brother Mark Inman said.
Australian death toll at 16, 12 more injured
The Australian death toll currently stands at 16, with another 12 people being treated in Australian hospitals after being repatriated with severe burns.
Two patients in Concord Hospital and two in the Royal North Shore Hospital remain in a critical condition, NSW Health said on Tuesday.
Four other patients at Royal North Shore are in a stable condition.
The family of one of the critical patients in Concord Hospital have requested privacy as their loved one fights for their life.
NZ Police on Tuesday released the names of three more Australians who were officially identified.
They are Coffs Harbour man Richard Elzer, 32, Brisbane woman Julie Richards, 47, and Sydney-based US citizen Barbara Hollander, 49, whose husband Martin Hollander and two sons Matthew, 13, and Berend, 16, were also killed.
Other Australians to lose their life are Jessica Richards, 20, from Brisbane; Coffs Harbour residents Jason Griffiths, 33, and Karla Mathews, 32; Adelaide schoolgirl Zoe Hosking, 15, and her stepfather Gavin Dallow, 53; and Melbourne woman Krystal Browitt, 21.
Some 47 people were on the island when the active volcano blew ash, hot liquid and steam almost three metres into the sky.
There were 28 Australians, including four permanent residents, in the group.
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