Jason Griffiths Volcano Death New Zealand Ovation of the Seas Passenger – On Monday, December 9, 2019, at 2:11 in the afternoon, Jason Griffiths, 33, from Coffs Harbor, Australia (see video below) was a passenger aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship Ovation of the Seas when the ship called at White Island in New Zealand’s northeastern Bay of Plenty region as the Whakaari Volcano erupted.
Griffiths died in hospital with burns to 80 percent of his body.
“On the 9th of December 2019, we were devastated by the news that three of our friends were visiting White Island on a shore excursion during the time of the eruption.. Sometime later, we discovered that two of our friends, Richard Elzer and Karla Mathews, were still on the island. We then located our third friend, Jason Griffiths, in a hospital in the early hours of the next morning. From that moment until the moment of his passing, Jason was surrounded by friends and family members.
Jason’s grieving sister, Melissa, rushed to New Zealand to be by her brother’s side. Tragically, she arrived in Auckland on Wednesday night to find her beloved brother had already died. “I was too late, now I just have to bring him home,” Ms Griffiths posted on Facebook. Just hours earlier, Ms Griffiths had posted, “I’m coming brother, please hold on. I’ll be there in a couple of hours. I love you, you got this!”
Friend Jen Morris stated, “Jason had a smile for everyone and believe me that can be challenging in Woolies. I worked with Jason for 3 years in Toormina.”
Jason Griffith’s friends posted on facebook, “The group of friends travelling with Jason Griffiths, Karla Matthews and Richard Elzer has released a statement overnight. We do so with the permission from all 6 of us who travelled in the group of 9 friends, and also with the permission of the families of the three victims, who have all read this. On the 4th of December 2019, we embarked upon a cruise as a group of 9 close friends who were looking forward to a wonderful holiday together. We enjoyed the first 5 days of our trip and have many memories that will stay with us forever.
On the 9th of December 2019, we were devastated by the news that three of our friends were visiting White Island on a shore excursion during the time of the eruption.
Some time later, we discovered that two of our friends, Richard Elzer and Karla Mathews, were still on the island. We have been advised that there are no signs of life on the island.
We then located our third friend, Jason Griffiths, in a hospital in the early hours of the next morning. From that moment until the moment of his passing, Jason was surrounded by friends and family members.
We are incredibly saddened to have lost three of our closest friends. We are in unison that we will not be responding to any requests for further information, including media requests. We ask that our privacy, and the privacy of Richard, Karla and Jason’s friends and family members, is respected.” – Alex, Daniel, Ellie, Leanne, Paul and Samantha
Ovation of the Seas was sailing on a 12-night cruise from Sydney, Australia.
About Whakaari Volcano
Whakaari also is known as just White Island is an active andesite stratovolcano situated 48 km (30 mi) from the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, in the Bay of Plenty. It is New Zealand’s most active cone volcano and has been built up by continuous volcanic activity over the past 150,000 years.
The nearest mainland towns are Whakatane and Tauranga. The island has been in a nearly continuous stage of releasing volcanic gas at least since it was sighted by James Cook in 1769. Whakaari erupted continually from December 1975 until September 2000, marking the world’s longest historic eruption episode, according to GeoNet, and also in 2012, 2016, and 2019.
GeoNet, which tracks New Zealand’s seismic and volcanic activity, raised its alert level on the island in November after increasing sulfur dioxide gas. Volcanic tremor also increased, and the agency wrote at the time that the island “may be entering a period where the eruptive activity is more likely than normal.”
Royal Caribbean’s 4,905-passenger Ovation of the Seas arrived at the nearest port of Tauranga yesterday, and it is understood that most of the missing tourists were visiting White Island on the cruise line’s shore excursion.
Royal Caribbean’s spokesperson in Australia stated, “We can confirm that a number of our guests were touring the island today. We do not have any additional details to share at this time. Ovation of the Seas will remain overnight until we learn more about the situation. We will offer all possible assistance to our guests and local authorities. Please keep all those affected in your prayers.”
Other Whakaari Volcano Deaths
Anthony James Langford, 51, North Willoughby, Australia
Barbara Hollander, 50, Sydney, Australia (American)
Berend Hollander, 16, Sydney, Australia (American)
Gavin Dallow, 53, Adelaide, Australia
Hayden Marshall-Inman – 40, New Zealand White Island Tours Limited guide
Jessica Richards, 20, Brisbane, Australia
Julie Richards, 47, Brisbane, Australia
Karla Matthews, 32, Coffs Harbor, Australia
Kristine Langford, 45. North Willoughby, Australia
Krystal Eve Browitt, 21, Melbourne, Australia
Martin Hollander, 48, Sydney, Australia
Matthew Hollander, 13, Sydney, Australia (American)
Richard Elzer, 32, Coffs Harbor, Australia
Tipene Maangi, 24, New Zealand White Island Tours Limited guide
Winona Jane Langford, 17, North Willoughby, Australia
Zoe Hosking, 15, Adelaide, Australia
Video: NZ White Island death toll rises to 16