A woman who survived a volcanic explosion that killed her dad and sister says there are two things keeping her going throughout her difficult recovery.
25-year-old Stephanie Browitt from Melbourne, Australia suffered horrible burns to 70% of her body. She also lost parts of her fingers in the explosion that occured while she was on vacation in White Island in New Zealand in December 2019.
Stephanie’s sister, Krystal, died in the explosion. Their dad, Paul passed away a month later from his injuries.
Stephanie spent six months recovering in the hospital before she was allowed to return home to her mom Marie.
Since the incident, Stephanie has been documenting her journey to recovery on Instagram and sharing stories about her dad and sister.
In her latest post, Stephanie admitted that she has fought hard to recover to “not only to be back home with my mum but to also see my fur baby again.”
Stephanie’s dog, Arlo, was just six months old when the incident happened. She said it was hurtful to know she was missing him growing up while she was in the hospital.
Stephanie set a goal of being able to take Arlo for a walk while holding his leash.
“He definitely makes it hard sometimes, 35kg of fluff pulling me every time he wants to make another dog friend… but it’s so worth it,” she wrote.
“He was my motivation and because of him I kept going and never gave up. He truly is the biggest joy of my life, his eyes always filled with love and admiration!”
Stephanie also posted a birthday tribute to her mom Marie earlier this month saying she was her “number one supporter.”
“It’s no longer a Happy Birthday for my mum, but I’m so thankful for every year that my mum is still here with me,” she wrote.
Stephanie was with her mom, dad and sister on “a cruise of a lifetime onboard Ovation of the Seas” when the tragedy happened 48km offshore.
More than 20 tourists from Australia, the US, Germany, China, and Britain died. Another 26 were seriously injured.
Stephanie went with her dad and sister to visit the dangerous attraction, while Marie stayed on the ship when the volcano suddenly erupted.
“Mums gone through so much and I can’t even begin to imagine the pain she’s suffered, yet here she is continuing to fight everyday to stay with me,” Stephanie wrote.
“She’s just as strong as I am and she doesn’t even realise it, but I will be forever grateful for all she has and continues to do for me.”
Stephanie described how after the tragedy her mom had to pack their holiday luggage and bring it back to their empty home that was usually filled with “love and laughter.”
“Then eventually she had to organize both my dad and sisters funeral. She went home alone in a taxi upon burying her family. Her screams were heard,” she added.
Local tourism authorities market White Island, or ‘Whakaari’, in Maori language, as “the world’s most accessible active marine volcano.”
Despite an increase in volcanic activity, tourists were allowed to visit the privately-owned White Island which runs daily tours and welcomes more than 10,000 people each year.