American tourists who were buried "in volcanic ashes and toxic gases" in the Whakaari / White Island tragedy have shared the last picture taken of them shortly before the volcanic eruption.

Rick and Ivy Kohn Reed suffered critical injuries in the December 9 tragedy when the popular North Island tourism destination erupted underneath them, leading to the deaths of 21 people.

The American couple were recently airlifted home to the US to continue with their recovery from the severe burns they suffered.

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In an update to a GoFundMe account set up to contribute to support the couple, Ivy has posted a photo of the pair on White Island prior to the eruption.

In it, the Americans are pictured smiling, with Rick's arm around his wife, while steam rises from the White Island crater behind them.

"This is the last picture taken of us before our lives changed forever," Ivy wrote.

"Approximately 15 minutes after this was taken, the White Island volcano erupted, burying us in hot volcanic ash and toxic gases. We survived, were rescued and spent almost 8 weeks in a New Zealand Hospital receiving critical care treatment.

"Our dream vacation turned into a nightmare that we are still trying to comprehend."
Ivy's brother, Barry Kohn, revealed in late January that the pair were getting ready to return to America.

A still taken from video shot from a tourist boat next to White Island juut as the volcano erupted on December 9. Photo / Allessandro Kauffman
A still taken from video shot from a tourist boat next to White Island juut as the volcano erupted on December 9. Photo / Allessandro Kauffman

Both had endured numerous surgeries.

Their return home had been delayed while Rick underwent skin regrafts on his ankles and physical therapy to help him start walking again. He suffered burns to 30 per cent of his body in the eruption.

Ivy suffered burns to her right leg, hands and face.

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Barry Kohn – who travelled to New Zealand to be at the bedside of his loved ones - also shared a photo of his brother at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital, with Barry giving the camera the thumbs up signal.

He also wrote on an earlier update on the online fundraiser: "I have been lucky enough to spend the last few days in Auckland with Ivy and Rick.

Rick Reed and his wife Ivy Kohn Reed pictured on Whakaari / White Island about 15 minutes before the volcano erupted. Photo / Supplied
Rick Reed and his wife Ivy Kohn Reed pictured on Whakaari / White Island about 15 minutes before the volcano erupted. Photo / Supplied

"It has been both heartbreaking and encouraging at the same time. I was taken aback when I first saw them with my own eyes, as no one is accustomed to seeing their loved ones laid up and recovering from volcanic burns.

"However, their overall positive attitudes and healthy spirits have really shown through."

Writing in her own update – the first public comment she has made since the tragedy - Ivy thanks everyone who had offered "support, prayers, good wishes, cards, texts, messages and calls", saying they had "helped us through some tough days".

Rick Reed and Ivy Kohn Reed have been able to return to America after earlier being critically injured in the Whakaari / White Island tragedy. Photo / Supplied
Rick Reed and Ivy Kohn Reed have been able to return to America after earlier being critically injured in the Whakaari / White Island tragedy. Photo / Supplied

But she added: "The next year will be the hardest of our lives while we try to rehab and regain as much functionality as possible.

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"We have returned home! This is happy news we wanted to share, but it is also scary, as we figure out what we can and can't do."

Ivy signed off her message by writing: "Much love".

Meanwhile, fellow survivor, 25-year-old Kiwi tour guide Kelsey Waghorn also provided an update online about her ongoing recovery, saying she was "doing really well".

Two days after Whakaari spewed steam and toxic gas from its depths, she had her arms, hands and a small portion of her stomach grafted.

"My legs, lower back and some touch ups on my upper arms had their donor/cadaver skin removed and were grafted on December 27th," Waghorn wrote in an update on a Givealittle page set up to support her and her family.

Kelsey Waghorn has thanked everyone for support offered to her and her family after almost losing her life in the Whakaari / White Island tragedy. Photo / Supplied
Kelsey Waghorn has thanked everyone for support offered to her and her family after almost losing her life in the Whakaari / White Island tragedy. Photo / Supplied

As this involved harvesting skin from her back and butt a second time, as well as some strips from her upper thighs, Waghorn wrote the procedures were uncomfortable, "to put it gently".

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"By this stage, I'd been [painfully] upright only twice between these two graftings with a lot of assistance from my beautiful physio, family and a handful of nurses."

The marine scientist has undergone more than a dozen surgeries since the volcano blew.

"So there was a lot of blood, sweat and tears put into getting me where I am today after my final graftings."

Waghorn remains in hospital two months on from the volcanic blast.

"Monday marks 9 weeks since Whakaari decided she would clear her throat. 9 weeks since I received full thickness burns to about 45% of my body. 9 weeks since I lost work colleagues and good friends."

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Focus: Whakatane Mayor Judy Turner speaks to The New Zealand Herald about the effect on her town one month on from the fatal eruption of White Island. Video / Alan Gibson

Fellow guides Tipene Maangi and Hayden Marshall-Inman were killed by the eruption.

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Nineteen-year-old tour guide Jake Milbank remains in Middlemore Hospital, suffering burns to 80 per cent of his body.

"I am fairly mobile now, albeit wobbly and minus some strength," Waghorn wrote.

"I am slowly regaining the use of both of my hands - my right is worse than my left. But I'm working on that every day."