Among the first words Whakaari / White Island survivor Marion London was able to tell her children after the tragedy that claimed 21 lives was that she loved them.

Marion, 56, and her 58-year-old husband Nick suffered life-threatening external and internal burns in the December 9 volcanic eruption.

More than two months since the popular tourist destination off the Bay of Plenty coastline erupted the couple remain in hospital.

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The past 10 weeks have been a hellish roller-coaster for the Sydney-based family. They had to deal with the horror of what happened on White Island, and have endured many medical setbacks. More positively the family has celebrated milestones in the ongoing recovery of Nick and Marion.

Nine days after the eruption, Marion came out of sedation. She immediately told her son Matt and daughter Louise that she loved them.

In an exclusive interview with the Weekend Herald, Matt London said they were words which had been a blessing to hear.

"It occurs to me now, after all of this, something you never think about is telling people that you love them," London told the Herald from Sydney.

"But after going through something like this you really appreciate it [love] all the more and [should] say it all the more often."

The Londons were among 47 tourists and tour guides on White Island when it erupted underneath them.

An aerial view of Whakaari / White Island just hours after the deadly December 9 volcanic eruption. Bay of Plenty Times photograph / George Novak
An aerial view of Whakaari / White Island just hours after the deadly December 9 volcanic eruption. Bay of Plenty Times photograph / George Novak

The couple had been passengers on board the cruise ship Ovation of the Seas when they decided to join a tour party to visit the volcanic island.

"It was a bit of a spur of the moment decision," Matt London said.

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"They saw it and thought 'why not, give it a try'. It is kind of a case of wrong place, wrong time to the worst possible degree.

"It is never the kind of thing that you expect to happen. It is a bit of a one-in-a-million kind of thing."

London was alerted to the tragedy when he was contacted by staff from Royal Caribbean, which operates the liner.

The call came several hours after the eruption. London said he was told: "Your parents were on a tour and haven't come back to the ship yet".

"They asked if we had heard anything or if we could contact them," he said.

"My initial thought was, 'That is not right, that is not like them'. They would always come back on time."

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Matt tried his parents' mobile phone numbers but had no joy getting through.
But his sister, Louise, did.

"She was very lucky enough to call my dad's cellphone and have a nurse at one of the hospitals pick the phone up and give us a little bit of information on what had happened. That is how we found out [of their parent's plight]."

Tourists are cleared from Whakaari / White Island after the deadly volcanic eruption. Photo / Michael Schade
Tourists are cleared from Whakaari / White Island after the deadly volcanic eruption. Photo / Michael Schade

After the eruption, the Londons had been among the injured placed on boats and rushed to Whakatāne for emergency treatment. They were then put in the same ambulance and taken to hospital.

"But after that it is a two-week gap in their life that they don't really have any recollection of," Matt London said.

The London's children travelled to Christchurch where their parents had been sent for specialist hospital care.

After spending two days with them, they returned to Australia to await their airlift home.

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The pair suffered burns to over 50 per cent of their bodies, as well as internal chemical burns from breathing toxic gases.

Nick and Marion were on life support when they were transported back to Australia.

Considering what they endured, Matt said his parents were progressing well.

He said his father was recovering quicker than his mother.

Matt London says his father Nick, pictured above, is making better progress than his mother who was also badly injured in the Whakaari / White Island tragedy. Photo / Supplied
Matt London says his father Nick, pictured above, is making better progress than his mother who was also badly injured in the Whakaari / White Island tragedy. Photo / Supplied

"It has been an up and down road as expected. But they are alive, so we couldn't be more thankful for that in the first place," he said.

"From the start they [medical teams] told us that could change at any moment . . . day by day, or even hour by hour.

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"Based on what they told us we have been really happy with how they have been healing and getting better."

As well as being appreciative to everyone who had donated to GoFundMe account set up to raise money for his parents, London said his family would never be able to show their full gratitude for the care provided by the medical teams.

"[What they did] is literally the difference between life and death," London said. "There is no way to really repay those people for the help they did for everyone.

"Being in hospital for a long periods of time . . . there is no point sugar-coating it . . . it is a pretty terrible experience.

"But they [medical teams] have done a lot to be as accommodating as they can and the medical team and doctors have done a great job fixing them up and taking care of them."

The online fundraiser states the pair had been "very lucky to make it off the island with their lives".

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Nick and Marion London were on a holiday on the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship when tragedy struck on December 9. Photo / Getty Images
Nick and Marion London were on a holiday on the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship when tragedy struck on December 9. Photo / Getty Images

London said his parents had talked "a little" to them about what happened after White Island erupted.

"Things come and go a little memory wise with them," he confided.

"It is a difficult thing to try and recall in your mind, but they have been doing their best to talk through it every now and then.

"It is the kind of memories that have a lot of emotional investment, so not a lot of detail of exactly what happened and where. It is how they felt and what was going through their heads at the moment."

He said he wasn't prepared to go public with what his parents had told him "because that is up to them to divulge if they want to talk about that."

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

London added his beloved parents had a huge passion for travelling, and did not think their harrowing experience on White Island would put them off further travels when they had recovered.

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"They are at the point of life that they have been semi-retired for a little while and enjoying the empty-nesters life," he said.

"It [travelling] has been a pretty regular thing for them. They are still looking forward to the future and looking forward to seeing the rest of the world still."

>> https://www.gofundme.com/f/bring-the-london039s-home