Teen to wake up to unimaginable horror
What started as a cruise to celebrate his dad's birthday has ended in unspeakable nightmare for Sydney teenager Jesse Langford.
The 19-year-old from the city's north shore is lying in a hospital bed with his entire body covered in burns. When he wakes from his coma, he will face the news that he's the only member of his immediate family left alive.
The University of Technology student, his sister and parents had been taking in the sights on a 12-day Ovation of the Seas cruise to celebrate his dad's 51st birthday when disaster struck.
As part of the holiday, they decided to take a day trip to White Island, about 50km north of Whakatane in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty, last Monday.
His parents - Anthony and Kristine - were killed when the volcano suddenly erupted not long after 2pm that day.
On Wednesday, it was announced that Jesse's 17-year-old sister Winona was the one Australian whose body was still missing from the disaster. She is presumed dead.
Today, authorities in New Zealand said her body was likely to have been swept out to sea and the chances of finding her alive were slim.
In shock, grieving extended family members feared the worst for Jesse.
However, he was eventually identified in a New Zealand hospital and flown to Sydney over the weekend for treatment.
He is now lying in a coma at Royal North Shore Hospital and it's understood he's suffering from burns covering up to 90 per cent of his body.
"Jesse is recovering in hospital, receiving excellent care," the family said in a statement.
"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."
NSW Premier and Willoughby MP Gladys Berejiklian told The Australian the family was well known on Sydney's north shore, where Jesse went to Marist College and his sister went to Willoughby Girls High.
According to LinkedIn, Anthony worked in IT at Sydney Water, while his wife Kristine described herself as a stay-at-home mum. She was interested in home design, art and fitness.
A friend of Kristine's wrote on Facebook last night: "Kristine's mother Carol passed away earlier this year and this tragedy is more than any family can or ever should have to go through. Kristine was a sweet person with a big heart and a happy personality and was well loved by many".
He said he'd remember her as a "wonderful and loving wife and mother".
NZ Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement told reporters this morning that he had been speaking with extended members of the Langford family about the search for Winona's body.
He said the family had accepted the theory that the teenager's body had been washed out of the volcano's crater and into the ocean.
The police dive squad has searched for her - as well as the only other missing person, 40-year-old tour guide Hayden Marhsall-Inman - without success.
Mr Clement said this afternoon the two bodies were near a stream that ran off the island. There was a significant weather event overnight on December 9, and police believe the bodies have not been on the island since December 10.
A 1.5m wave of water and sediment is believed to have come down the stream on Whakaari and washed the two bodies away, police say.
The stream was searched three times, and aerial imagery also confirmed the two bodies were no longer there.
Mr Clement said police were "deeply sorry" that they had not found the bodies.
"We haven't given up, but we have reached a phase where we are literally in the hands of the sea," he said.
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 this morning.
Four other patients at Royal North Shore are in a stable condition. The family of one of the critical patients in Concord Hospital has 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.
- with wires