A tour guide seriously injured in the Whakaari/White Island eruption has spoken for the first time, praising the medical staff who "literally saved my life".

Kelsey Waghorn, a marine scientist, survived the tragedy but sustained full-thickness burns to 45 per cent of her body.

On Tuesday, the 25-year-old issued a heartfelt statement from her hospital bed, thanking everyone who had reached out to or helped her family since the volcano eruption.

"And to those who have generously donated to my Givealittle, I've been reading your comments in small batches as the kindness is overwhelming.


"It's hard to fathom the amount of love and support from people I met through work, and even people I haven't met."

Waghorn spent 10 days in ICU, five of those in an induced coma after the island spewed ash, steam and toxic gas.

An aerial view of Whakaari / White Island after the deadly December 9 eruption which claimed the lives of 20 people. Photo / George Novak
An aerial view of Whakaari / White Island after the deadly December 9 eruption which claimed the lives of 20 people. Photo / George Novak

She has undergone more than a dozen surgeries.

"Thank you so much to the emergency services, doctors, nurses, surgeons that got me from the Whakatāne wharf, through ICU, to the Plastics and Burns Unit.

"You literally saved my life, and ensured I will go on to live a long and beautiful life. Here's hoping that 14 trips to the operating theatre are the only trips I'll take!

The disaster killed 20 people, including fellow tour guides Hayden-Marshall Inman and Tipene Maangi.

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Hayden-Marshall Inman and teenage Australian tourist Winona Langford were confirmed as deceased by the Chief Coroner on Thursday. Their bodies are lost at sea.


"Thank you doesn't seem like a big enough word(s) to my family and partner who have been by my side from day one, through the low-lows to the "baby's first step" highs.

"You've been through hell with me, and I am lost for words in how to thank you all. I'll just keep pushing forward, and hope that will do for now."

Donations to Waghorn's Givealittle page have topped $100,000.

Fellow guide Jake Milbank, who suffered burns to 80 per cent of his body, remains in hospital.

The 19-year-old recently posted an update on his progress to his Givealittle page, thanking the nation for their kindness.

"We are grateful for the kind donations received through the Givealittle page and I am enjoying reading the awesome messages and comments that have come, they've really helped me."


Milbank wrote that his fingers were no longer bandaged, meaning he was now "able to use my iPad to catch up with my friends.