Aussie dad Chris Cozad named as Volcano's latest victim

 

One of the Australian victims killed in the volcanic eruption off New Zealand has been named as Sydney father Chris Cozad.

Mr Cozad was evacuated from the devastating incident on White Island and died five days later, becoming the 16th death, with his identity confirmed today.

The official death toll now sits at 19. The 43-year-old was on Ovation of the Seas cruise ship celebrating his 20-year wedding anniversary with his family when the disaster occurred.

"I will forever treasure every second I got to spend with him, the values he has instilled within me and the love he showered me, my sisters and my mum in," Mr Cozad's daughter Emily said in a post on social media.

"He is someone I will forever look up to and he will be so so so missed. He was and forever will be, the most perfect dad."

‘He will be missed’. Sydney man Chris Cozad has been named as a victim of the White Island eruption in New Zealand.
‘He will be missed’. Sydney man Chris Cozad has been named as a victim of the White Island eruption in New Zealand. Facebook
Australian Chris Cozad has died in hospital.
Australian Chris Cozad has died in hospital. Facebook
Sydney man Chris Cozad has been remembered as the ‘perfect dad’.
Sydney man Chris Cozad has been remembered as the ‘perfect dad’. Facebook

 

 

Final victims believed to have been "washed out to sea"

Authorities believe the final two people unaccounted for following the White Island volcano tragedy on December 9 have been "washed out to sea".

Providing an update on the recovery effort, New Zealand Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement said authorities believe the bodies of Winona Langford, 17, from Sydney and tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman from New Zealand were swept away in a "significant weather event" overnight on December 9.

"Our imagery shows us that it is very clear that two of the eight bodies we believe that were in or near a stream that runs off the island and into the sea were no longer present on the island," he said.

"We believe that to be the case since the 10th of December, but we needed to go on to the island to confirm that, and we have done that twice. First on the 13th of December when the soldiers … went on and recovered the six bodies.

"At the same time, they walked stream three times, they came down the stream to the sea, they took a break and then they went back up the stream to the area where we believe the two bodies had been. And then came back down again.

"They confirmed what we believe to be true from the aerial imagery, and that is that the two bodies were no longer there. It is my strong view that I cannot be absolute positive that the

two bodies who had been in that water course were washed out to sea."

Tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman is still listed as missing. Picture: YouTube
Tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman is still listed as missing. Picture: YouTube

Mr Clements said authorities believe the body of a male off the Bay of Plenty adjacent to the jetty was Marshall-Inman.

"There was no visual identification. But the circumstances are such that I believe that person to be Hayden," he said.

Winona's brother Jesse Langford remains in a coma in a Sydney hospital.

Jesse's parents, Kristine, 45, and Anthony, 51, were killed in the eruption.

The Australian reported that Jesse suffered 80-90 per cent of burns to his body and is currently being cared for at Sydney's Royal North Shore hospital where relatives have visited him.

"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."

It comes as wild weather forced police to postpone their search for the Sydney teenager and New Zealander, Marshall-Inman.

Isolated showers lashed the Bay of Plenty, and a major front is expected to bring heavy rain to White Island throughout Wednesday.

 

Anthony and Kristine Langford, with their children Jesse and Winona. Picture: Supplied
Anthony and Kristine Langford, with their children Jesse and Winona. Picture: Supplied

Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement told RNZ that police had begun actively searching the eastern Bay of Plenty coastline around Cape Runaway 70.8km away, and would continue to look.

"We'll keep trying until we can get out there on the surface of the water … the Eagle helicopter has been able to deploy over to Cape Runaway, over to that part of the coast," he said.

"We think if there was going to be any drift in the tide, of a body that was on the surface of the water anyway, it could potentially go that way so we have been searching that way as well."

On Tuesday, an Eagle helicopter left the mainland at dawn, only to be forced to return to shore.

Police attempted to conduct a shoreline search of the active volcano, where they believe the missing bodies could be, but were unsuccessful.

An intensive care nurse who worked to help White Island volcano victims has tragically died in a road crash in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Herald reports that Sheila Cheng, 50, died after the car she was a passenger in and another vehicle collided head-on on a Bay of Plenty highway last Saturday.

Her husband, Rhys Bugden, 49, was in the front passenger seat and suffered critical internal injuries, his mother Pam Greenhalgh said.

New Zealand police said the cause of the crash - which left five people injured - was under investigation.

The driver of the other car remains in hospital.

 

Whakatane Hospital intensive care nurse Sheila Cheng who was killed in a road accident. Picture: Supplied
Whakatane Hospital intensive care nurse Sheila Cheng who was killed in a road accident. Picture: Supplied

AGONY AWAITS FAMILY'S SOLE SURVIVOR

As Australian teenager Jesse Langford remains in a coma in a Sydney hospital, New Zealand authorities have confirmed that his sister Winona, 17, is one of the final two people unaccounted for following the White Island volcano tragedy on December 9.

Jesse's parents, Kristine, 45, and Anthony, 51, were killed in the eruption.

New Zealand tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman was confirmed as the other missing person as police conceded they might never find the final two victims.

Meanwhile, The Australian reported that Jesse Langford suffered 80-90 per cent of burns to his body and is currently being cared for at Sydney's Royal North Shore hospital where relatives have visited him.

"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."

It comes as wild weather forced police to postpone their search for the Sydney teenager and New Zealander, Marshall-Inman.

Isolated showers lashed the Bay of Plenty, and a major front is expected to bring heavy rain to White Island throughout Wednesday.

Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement told RNZ that police had begun actively searching the eastern Bay of Plenty coastline around Cape Runaway 70.8km away, and would continue to look.

"We'll keep trying until we can get out there on the surface of the water … the Eagle helicopter has been able to deploy over to Cape Runaway, over to that part of the coast," he said.

"We think if there was going to be any drift in the tide, of a body that was on the surface of the water anyway, it could potentially go that way so we have been searching that way as well."

On Tuesday, an Eagle helicopter left the mainland at dawn, only to be forced to return to shore.

Police attempted to conduct a shoreline search of the active volcano, where they believe the missing bodies could be, but were unsuccessful.

RESCUERS 'GASPING FOR AIR'

Meanwhile, more details have emerged about the team tasked with retrieving the bodies of the dead and the difficult conditions rescuers faced.

Last Friday, days after the White Island volcano erupted, a team of specialist soldiers were sent to retrieve those lost in the tragedy.

Seven members of the New Zealand Defence Force's elite SAS E Squadron and their commander boarded the HMNZS Wellington and made their way to White Island.

The soldiers wore three layers of protective clothing and a breathing set, which weighed a hefty 15kg.

They then transferred from the HMNZS Wellington to inflatable boat, which took them to White Island's ash-covered jetty.

Members of the specialist team during the search for bodies on White Island. Picture: New Zealand Defence Force via Getty Images
Members of the specialist team during the search for bodies on White Island. Picture: New Zealand Defence Force via Getty Images

New Zealand Defence senior officer Colonel Rian McKinstry told the NZ Herald he "feared for them".

"But there was no sense that (the soldiers) had concern for themselves and that risk," he said.

He described how the "exhausted" soldiers, drenched in sweat, were "gasping" for fresh air after the retrieval of the dead.

"One soldier told me that he was down on his hands and knees taking in air," Colonel McKinstry said.

"He looked up and everyone else was doing exactly the same thing.

"They were exhausted, the physical toll was just severe dehydration.

"There was also a strong sense of relief … they were relieved that they had gotten the job done."

 

Colonel McKinstry also revealed members of the elite team, which comprised of male and female members, were involved in the recovery efforts of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, and the March 15 terror attack.

"Tragically, they all have some experience in this type of work," he told the NZ Herald.

"But none of them had experience in wearing that kind of gear for two or three hours on an active volcano.

The unit's commander, who could only be identified as "Matt", told local media that when they reached the bodies, they were faced with dense mud.

"It was unbelievable; not a condition we train for or ever expect to operate in, it's just so much hotter than you could expect," he said.

Once they discovered the bodies, soldiers quickly moved the victims to a site where they could be flown back to the HMNZS Wellington.

He said by the time his team got off the island they were pretty "crook".

They have since been given a clean bill of medical health, and were glad they were able to bring six victims back to their families.

Colonel McKinstry said: "There were a few people vomiting, drinking water, and everyone was very fatigued.

"These guys have gone past the limits of endurance, what's taken them past some of those limits has been their professionalism, but it's also their human nature - their understanding of the situation, and not wanting to not achieve this task," he said.

INQUIRY COULD LEAD TO JAIL, FINES

Tour operators and property owners involved in Ovation of the Seas' fatal visit to New Zealand's White Island volcano could face five years jail and up to NZ$3 million in fines, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Ms Adern said the WorkSafe investigation would likely take a year and will look into breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act, which covers tour operators, cruise ships, emergency responders and land owners.

Breaches of the Act can see criminal sanctions of NZ$50,000 to NZ$3 million and up to five years jail.

Police staff returning from White Island. Picture: RNZ/Robin Martin
Police staff returning from White Island. Picture: RNZ/Robin Martin

A coronial inquiry will be held at the same time.

"We know that it is possible there will be broader issues that won't be covered by these inquiries, therefore I have asked for advice from officials to look into whether there are any gaps that need to be addressed that fall outside of a potential coronial inquiry and the WorkSafe investigation," Ms Adern said.

Ms Adern's cabinet has already approved a NZ$5 million fund to help small businesses who have been affected by the disaster.

"This is not necessarily the totality of the need in these areas but we thought important to make sure that we were working to address immediate needs," she said.

MORE VICTIMS NAMED

The official death toll now sits at 16.

Those officially confirmed dead are: Martin Hollander, 48, Barbara Hollander 49,

Matthew Hollander, 13, Berend Hollander, 16.

The family are US citizens but permanent residents of Australia.

Brothers Matthew and Berend Hollander died in the tragedy, while parents Martin and Barbara Hollander are listed as missing. Picture: AAP
Brothers Matthew and Berend Hollander died in the tragedy, while parents Martin and Barbara Hollander are listed as missing. Picture: AAP

Also confirmed dead are Australians Jessica Richards, 20; Jason Griffiths, 33, Karla Mathews, 32, Richard Elzer, 32, Zoe Hosking, 15, Gavin Dallow, 53, Anthony Langford, 51, Kristine Langford, 45, Krystal Browitt, 21, Tīpene James Te Rangi Ataahua Maangi, 24, Australian man who died in a Sydney hospital. Family requested that his details not be released.

Julie Richards, 47 and her daughter, Jessica Richards, 20, who were the first Australian victims of the volcanic eruption on White Island in New Zealand. Picture: AAP
Julie Richards, 47 and her daughter, Jessica Richards, 20, who were the first Australian victims of the volcanic eruption on White Island in New Zealand. Picture: AAP

Kiwi tour guide Tipene Maangi was also killed.

Flags across Australia flew at half-mast to honour victims of the blast on Monday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Australian marshals to lower all flags at 12.11pm (AEDT) to coincide with a minute of silence observed across New Zealand.

Ovation of the Seas returned to Sydney this morning. Picture: Getty Images
Ovation of the Seas returned to Sydney this morning. Picture: Getty Images

CRUISE SHIP BACK IN SYDNEY

On Monday, the cruise ship at the centre of the White Island volcano tragedy arrived back in Sydney.

Ovation of the Seas docked around 4.50am AEDT before being escorted into Sydney Harbour by tug boats.

One of the passengers said those travelling on the vessel were not told of the tragedy until late on Monday night after the tragedy occurred.

"On the day (of the tragedy) the captain was calling for people to report to guest services. We thought people were running late maybe and it was later on that we heard what had happened," the passenger known only as Troy told Nine's Today Show.

"Everyone was watching the news and jumping on their phones and finding out what they could.

"It was sombre. The crew were really good. They were trying to stay upbeat and happy and do what they could but you could tell they were hurting.

"I think the captain was breaking down, crying a fair bit".

Troy said once some of the pictures of the missing passengers were released, people on board began to recognise them.

He said it was good to be back in Sydney.

"Just relieved to be back, really. Can't wait to get home," he said.

Other passengers said they were annoyed after having no information while being kept on the ship.

COFFS HARBOUR FAMILY STATEMENT

The family of missing Coffs Harbour man Richard Elzer issued a statement after New Zealand police confirmed Australian man Richard Elzer was among the dead.

High school sweethearts Richard Elzer, 32, and Karla Mathews, 32, and Jason Griffiths were holidaying with a group of friends before they broke off from the group to visit White Island.

The eruption left Ms Mathews and Mr Elzer missing and presumed dead, while Mr Griffiths, who suffered extensive burns and head trauma, died after being evacuated to hospital.

"We received the confirmation of Rick's passing just moments before we observed a minute's silence aboard the HMNZS Wellington," Jeannie Bartram, Peter, Mieke, Shannon and Amelia Elzer said in a statement.

Passengers disembark the Ovation of the Seas after it arrived in Sydney. Picture: AAP
Passengers disembark the Ovation of the Seas after it arrived in Sydney. Picture: AAP

"Words cannot describe how honoured we feel, to have had this minute's silence blessed with a traditional Karakia followed by the navy crew performing a Haka as we looked upon Whakaari.

"It has brought our family great relief to know that Rick was with the love of his life Karla Mathews at the time of the eruption and that they were together when they passed.

"Together with Karla's family, we will now be able to bring them home.

"To the families who still await confirmation that their loved one has passed and to those injured in the eruption, our hearts are with you."

- with staff writers and AAP


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