The family of a couple who died following the Whakaari/White Island eruption is calling for better safety equipment to be used in volcano tourism - saying it could have saved their loved ones.

Pratap "Paul" and Mayuari "Mary" Singh both succumbed to their injuries in hospital following the eruption, with Pratap's death on January 28 making him the 21st fatality of the December 9 eruption.

READ MORE:
Double tragedy for American family after husband dies

Bhupender (Vick) Singh, Pratap's nephew, has spoken of the American couple's "priceless" love.

Advertisement

He said their presence was "irreplaceable".

"We miss them dearly and their memories are going to stay fresh in our hearts and minds for the times to come."

The couple are survived by three young children: an 11-year-old son and 6-year-old twin daughters.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Bhupender Singh called for volcano tourism in New Zealand and around the world to charter proper safety equipment - including appropriate heat resistant clothing, safety glasses, helmets and face masks.

"Proper safety equipment would have saved my family," he said in the family statement.

"Tours should not be operated without comprehensive disclosure of risks associated, and a complete assessment of geothermal and seismic activity."

But Paul Quinn, White Island Tours chairman said those on the tours to the active volcano received numerous safety briefings on the tour.

"The equipment was in accordance with the practices that we had signed off by the WorkSafe independent auditors.

Advertisement

"Presumably the safety measures will be something that the WorkSafe inquiry looks into. What comes out of that inquiry, and the Coronial inquiry, we'll have to see."

The Whakaare/White Island disaster has now claimed 21 lives. Photo / George Novak
The Whakaare/White Island disaster has now claimed 21 lives. Photo / George Novak

On Thursday the Ministry of Health confirmed one American patient had been transferred back to the United States.

"Repatriation of a further two patients is expected to occur later this week," a Ministry of Health statement said.

Eleven patients remain at four hospitals around the country, two of them critical.

Twenty-one people have now lost their lives in the disaster.

The Singhs received devastating injuries in the eruption - Mary received 72 per cent burns to her body, while her husband suffered 55 per cent burns to his body.

Advertisement

Bhupender Singh visited the pair every day since December 10 while they were in Middlemore Hospital.

The last 50 days of Pratap's life were "distressing, slow and agonisingly painful", he said.

Mary 42, spent the last 13 days of her life in Middlemore's Intensive Care.

She succumbed to her injuries three days before Christmas last year.

Bhupender Singh described the mother-of-three as "a true supermom" and a beloved member of the American-Indian community.

"She was one of a kind — we love her, we miss her so much," he said.

Advertisement

Pratap 49, was an Indian-American entrepreneur and the President of SEVA International Atlanta USA chapter and led the Sponsor-A-Child initiative.

Pratap
Pratap "Paul" Singh, 49, died at Middlemore Hospital on Tuesday. Photo / Supplied

"His unmatched exuberance and unconditional love for everyone around him will forever be missed.

"He was the best father, best guardian, best brother, best uncle, best volunteer and the best friend anyone could wish.

"The entire family grew and thrived under his leadership."

Described by his doctors as a "fighter", he battled his injuries for 50 days, Singh said.

He was transferred to the Critical Care Unit in Middlemore Hospital from Whakatane Hospital on December 10.

Advertisement
Pratap
Pratap "Paul" Singh is the latest White Island victim to die of his injuries in Middlemore Hospital on Tuesday, bringing the total death toll from the disaster to 21. Photo / Facebook

He acknowledged the doctors, consultants, nurses and the administrative staff of Middlemore Hospital for their efforts in providing best medical attention and care possible for Paul and Mary.

Singh said the couple were the "central hub" for everyone around them and that the family was left heartbroken by the loss.

"This changes everything, a new normal might be impossible to achieve for our family."

"We miss them dearly and their memories are going to stay fresh in our hearts and minds for the times to come.

Singh said the couple were devout worshippers of Lord Shiva, a supreme Hindu god.

"I'm afraid he loves them more," he said.

Advertisement

"Shiva loves them more, more than us."

Singh said his family continued to pray for the healthy and fast recovery of the remaining survivors.

"We offer our sincere condolences and do share the pain and sorrow of the families who have lost their loved ones in this tragic incident."

He plans to set up a Givealittle page to continue their charity work.