Volcano survivor's trigger after White Island disaster

Josh Dutton
·News Reporter
·2-min read

A Melbourne woman who survived the White Island volcano disaster has shared how the trauma of the tragedy still haunts her.

Stephanie Browitt, 24, suffered burns to 70 per cent of her body after the volcano erupted off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island in December 2019.

It killed her father and sister along with 20 others while Ms Browitt spent six months in hospital recovering from her burns. She still wears a face mask to protect her skin.

Stephanie Browitt, 24, pictured before and after she was burnt by the White Island volcanic eruption.
Stephanie Browitt, 24, before and after she was burnt. Source: Instagram/ Stephanie Browitt

Ms Browitt wrote on Instagram she suffers PTSD as a result of the ordeal and it was triggered on Australia Day.

“Unfortunately we weren’t warned of or knew of the 21 canon salute to commemorate Australia Day,” she wrote.

“As you can imagine the loud noises and the strong smoke set off my PTSD and I was left crying as past memories flooded my mind. I was stuck shaking in fear as I held on to mum for protection.

“It took awhile for me to ground myself back in reality and realise that I was completely safe. I realised then that although I ‘thought’ I didn’t really have the symptoms of PTSD, the most surprising things can set you off and out of the blue.

“It’s a huge reminder that even though I believe I’m OK, I still have a lot of emotional and mental trauma to work through and process and that’s OK.”

In this handout image provided by the New Zealand Defence Force, recovery operation at Whakaari/White Island in Whakatane, New Zealand.
The New Zealand Defence Force performs a recovery operation on the island. Source: Getty Images

Ms Browitt shared she has also begun micro-needling on her face. It is a process which will hopefully force her body to produce new skin tissue.

“It’s a long, slow road but a very exciting one at that,” she wrote.

There were 47 people on the island when the volcano erupted.

Worksafe, New Zealand's primary regulator for workplace related incidents, said in a news conference its investigations found 13 parties had not met their health and safety obligations in taking the tourists to the White Island.

with Reuters

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