A brave survivor of a volcanic island explosion which killed her dad and sister said there are two things that kept her going on the difficult road to recovery.
Stephanie Browitt, 25, from Melbourne, Australia, suffered horrifying burns to 70% of her body and lost parts of her fingers in the blast on White Island while holidaying in New Zealand in December 2019.
Her sister Krystal died in the explosion and dad Paul passed away a month later.
Stephanie spent six months recovering in hospital before she was allowed to return home to her mum Marie.
Since the tragedy happened she has been candidly documenting her road to recovery on Instagram and sharing stories about her dad and sister.
In her latest post Stephanie confessed 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 tragedy struck and said it was hurtful to know she missing him growing up while she was in hospital.
She said he was confused as his family ‘had gone’ and her reunion with her ‘best friend’ after six months apart was ‘full of love’.
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 mum Marie earlier this month saying she was her ‘number one supporter’.
She wrote: ‘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.
Stephanie was with her mum, dad and sister on “a cruise of a lifetime onboard Ovation of the Seas” when the tragedy happened 48km offshore on December 9 at around 2.10pm.
More than 20 tourists from Australia, the US, Germany, China, Britain died and another 26 were seriously injured.
Stephanie’s dad Paul and sister Krystal was visiting the dangerous attraction, while Marie stayed on the ship when the volcano suddenly erupted.
Stephanie said because her mum, who has Multiple sclerosis, escaped injury people struggle to understand the true depth of her pain and suffering.
“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,” she 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. “
She described how after the tragedy her mum had to pack their holiday luggage and bring it back to their empty home that was usually filled with ‘love and laughter’.
Stephanie wrote: ‘Then eventually she had to organise both my dad and sisters funeral. She went home alone in a taxi upon burying her family. Her screams were heard.”
Local tourism authorities market White Island, or ‘Whakaari’, in Maori language, as “the world’s most accessible active marine volcano”.
More than 20 tourists from Australia, the US, Germany, China, Britain died and another 26 were seriously injured in the blast.
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.
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