Police in New Zealand have confirmed the death of yet another person as a result of the Whakaari/White Island volcanic eruption on 9 December 2019.
This death brings the official number of people to die from the tragedy to 22. A further 25 people who were on the island at the time survived, but suffered severe injuries as a result of the burns they received.
The death of 64-year-old Horst Westenfelder, a German, occurred on 2 July, but was only confirmed yesterday (Thursday) in an official police statement. It is unclear why police waited more than four months to make the announcement.
The statement said he passed away “at a hospital overseas”, but did not stipulate where.
Medical complications due to injuries
It added that Westenfelder died due to medical complications while receiving treatment for injuries he received on Whakaari/White Island.
“Our thoughts are with the friends and family of Mr Westenfelder, who have requested privacy as they are still coming to terms with the death of their much-loved husband, father and grandfather,” New Zealand Police said.
The Whakaari/White Island tragedy is one of the deadliest natural disasters in New Zealand’s history.
Westenfelder’s widow Angelika, who was also on the island when it erupted, described her late husband as an “irreplaceable loss for our family, his friends and of course for myself”.
“Our lives have changed!” she wrote.
Wife says ‘thank you’ to everyone
“It is unbelievable, how many months my joyful, sensible and strong husband ‘Horsti’, was fighting for his life and I am thankful to everyone who was thinking of us and helping us during that very hard time. He lost this battle and started his last journey in July.
“In loving memory of a full and exciting life. I will always miss you.”
Scientists who have been studying the explosion and developing more accurate ways to predict similar detonations in future, have described Whakaari/White Island as “like a pressure cooker blasting its lid off”.
A memorial event on the first anniversary of the disaster on December 9 will be held at 11:30am at the Mataatua Reserve in Whakatāne.