Couple sues Royal Caribbean after sustaining severe burns in deadly New Zealand volcano eruption

LMAW

CNN

A Virginia couple is suing Royal Caribbean Cruises and an excursion company after they sustained severe burns during a visit to the White Island volcano in New Zealand, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in US District Court in Miami.

The volcano erupted on December 9, 2019, while 47 people were visiting the island. Twenty-one people were killed. Others suffered severe injuries.

The couple, Matthew Urey and Lauren Barham, who were on their honeymoon, sustained burns to 54% and 23% of their bodies respectively, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges the cruise line and the excursion company, ID Tours New Zealand Limited, were negligent in not informing them about the potential dangers of visiting the volcano.

Royal Caribbean responded to the lawsuit filed on Thursday, saying: “We continue to support the needs of those affected by this tragic incident. We respectfully decline further comment while the investigation is still proceeding.”

CNN reached out to ID Tours New Zealand Limited for comment.

The Royal Caribbean’s shore excursion brochure referred to White Island, located on the east coast of New Zealand’s north island, as “one of the most active volcanoes in the world,” the lawsuit said.

The potential danger of visiting the volcano was not obvious to the couple “because an ‘active’ volcano is defined as a volcano that has had at least one eruption during the past 10,000 years.”

The volcano had erupted “multiple times” in the past 10 years and was experiencing increased volcanic activity that the couple was unaware of, the lawsuit said.

The cruise line also failed to notify the couple that a 5.9 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter located about 6.2 miles northeast of the volcano occurred two weeks earlier, the lawsuit said, which is notable “since seismic activity provides an increased risk of hydrothermal eruptions.”

According to a statement from the couple’s attorney, Michael Winkleman, “the applicable maritime law holds that Royal Caribbean has a well-defined legal duty to warn its passengers of known dangers. As the Complaint alleges, Royal Caribbean egregiously breached this duty to warn.”

The couple is demanding judgment for all damages recoverable under the law and a trial by jury.