American newlyweds severely injured in Whakaari eruption ‘thrilled’ by WorkSafe charges


Matt and Lauren Urey were newlyweds on their honeymoon when they visited Whakaari on a tour last year, and were left fighting for their lives after the eruption.

They’re currently suing Miami-based Royal Caribbean, the cruise ship company they traveled on and which sold them the tour.

Their lawyer, Michael Winkleman, told TVNZ1’s Breakfast this morning they’re “thrilled” by the WorkSafe charges.

“It seems the authorities are taking steps in the right direction to make sure there is accountability for this incident,” he says.

“They’re still on a very long journey towards recovery for them, but I think this is a great first step in the right direction for holding Royal Caribbean and any other related entities accountable for this preventable tragedy.”

Thirteen parties are now facing criminal charges under the Health and Safety At Work Act — 10 companies and three individuals or directors.

None were named by WorkSafe as they have a right to apply for name suppression at their first court appearance.

However, the owners of Whakaari, as well as its directors, White Island Tours, Volcanic Air and government agencies GNS Science and National Emergency Management (NEMA) have all confirmed they’ve been charged.

The companies face fines of up to $1.5 million each while the individuals could be fined up to $300,000 each if found guilty.

Winkleman says they were aware the charges were coming but didn’t know the exact timing.

“Everything as it relates to what the New Zealand authorities are doing is absolutely helpful for the case against Royal Caribbean,” he says.

Twenty-two people died as a result of the eruption; two bodies were never found.

The Ureys were hospitalised for two months with serious burns.