A Queensland mother listed as the director of a company based in Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast, and her daughter, have been confirmed dead in the New Zealand volcano tragedy.
Julie Richards, 47, and her daughter Jessica Richards, 20, died after the volcano erupted just after 2.10pm on Monday local time.
It’s understood the pair were enjoying a holiday on the Ovation of the Seas liner and had booked a tour of the now-deadly volcano.
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They were due to return home to Brisbane this weekend, however sadly, the family of the pair were informed by New Zealand police this morning that their bodies had been found.
Julie Richards is believed to have been the director and part-owner of software company Vtron Pty Ltd, while Jessica was studying veterinary science at the University of Queensland.
It’s with deep sadness we learn of the deaths of Julie and Jessica Richards in the New Zealand volcano tragedy. I know members of the family. I know how much Julie and Jessica are loved and how terribly devastating their loss is.
— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) December 11, 2019
Family friend John Mickel fronted the media on Wednesday afternoon and said the family is now “united in grief”.
“It is just devastating news that New Zealand Police confirmed earlier this morning that both Julie and Jessica are among the deceased in this tragic incident in New Zealand,” Mr Mickel said.
“The family have asked me to describe Julie and Jess as being outdoor adventurous people… They really loved the cruise atmosphere, but more particularly, they loved the adventurism that went with all the outdoor sports.
“Both of them have a long history of being involved in outdoor activities. Jess was a promising AFL player and she was also studying at University of Queensland.”
Mr Mickel urged the public to keep the family in their prayers at this difficult time.
“The family today are united in grief… it wasn’t so long ago they were celebrating the 85th birthday of their mother, so they were united in the happiness that goes with that, along with the thrill that two members of the family were going to embark on a cruise,” he said.
“You obviously live in hope that’s it not going to be your loved one’s name that comes up, but the hope was snuffed out this morning with the message from the New Zealand police.
“Now we’ve got the festive season that will be celebrated by so many Queenslanders, but unfortunately, for this family, it will be one of deep poignance.
“At this time we gather in the support of one another… No man is an island, well no person is, so therefore we seek the comfort in one another and that’s what families do at Christmas time and they sure do at this time of grief.”
The body of Adelaide man Gavin Dallow, who had been missing since the eruption, has also been identified by New Zealand Police.
The 53-year-old’s step-daughter Zoe Hosking, 15, is sadly also believed to have died, while her mother Lisa Dallow, 48, remains in hospital with serous burns.
Mr Dallow’s father said at a news conference this afternoon that the family is devastated.
“We mourn the loss of Gavin and Zoe,” he said.
“Gavin was a wonderful son and brother.
“Our hearts break at the loss of Zoe at such a young age.”
A rescue mission to recover the remaining bodies on the island has been delayed, with fears of a second eruption on White Island.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that a number of injured Australians would be flown home to receive treatment in our hospitals.
“The Government has activated a repatriation plan to bring a number of Australians injured in the White Island volcano tragedy from New Zealand to Australia for specialist medical care,” Mr Morrison said.
“We anticipate transferring up to 10 injured patients to New South Wales and Victoria, starting within the next 24 hours. Any transfers will depend strictly on medical decisions from doctors that it is safe to move the patients.”
Three Royal Australian Air Force aircraft have also been deployed to New Zealand as part of the repatriation effort.
“A C-130 Hercules departed RAAF Base Richmond and two C-17 Globemasters departed RAAF Base Amberley to Christchurch, with a team of specialist aircrew and medical equipment on board,” Mr Morrison confirmed.
“The NSW, Victorian, Queensland and South Australian Governments have also provided aircraft.”