June 23, 2024

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A pilot’s dramatic account of how he escaped death after New Zealand’s Wakkari volcano erupted

A pilot’s dramatic account of how he escaped death after New Zealand’s Wakkari volcano erupted

Images of volcanic eruption on White Island

A helicopter pilot told a court Thursday that he and his two passengers escaped serious injury after jumping into the sea when a volcano erupted in New Zealand in 2019, killing 22 people.

Two more passengers on the pilot’s flight Brian DePauw They did not reach the water, were surrounded by a cloud of hot ash from the White Island eruption, and suffered severe burns.

Debau, born in Belgium and speaking with an Irish accent, gave evidence in the Auckland District Court on Thursday. Investigation of three tourism companies and three directors accused of breaching safety rules December 9 disaster.

Pilot Brian DePauw responds in the witness box at the Vaccari White Island explosion trial at the Auckland Environment Court in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, July 13, 2023. DePauw, a helicopter pilot, said Thursday. In 2019, 22 people died after jumping into the sea when a volcano erupted in New Zealand. (Nick Monroe/Pool Photo via AP)

“You saved us,” DePauw told the court.

Debau and his four German passengers were among 47 people on White Island, the tip of an underwater volcano, also known by its native Maori name. WaqariWhen superheated gases explode. Most of the 25 survivors suffered severe burns.

DePauw, who now lives in Canada, said he had been working with tour operator Volcanic Air for three or four weeks and took his first unsupervised flight with the company the day the volcano erupted.

Smoke from the Wakkari volcano eruption, also known as White Island, is shown in this social media video taken from a boat in New Zealand on Dec. 9, 2019. via Instagram @ALLESSANDROKAUFFMANN/REUTERS

He told his passengers, two German couples, during security briefings: “If you see me running, I always do some kind of joke, follow me.”

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When the volcano erupted, the passengers wanted to return to the helicopter, but the pilot decided that water was the safest route.

“Should we run now? I looked back and saw the smoke going up 1,000 or 2,000 feet and rocks and debris curling toward us, so I said, ‘Run, run, run toward the water. follow me'”DePauw told police in a video statement recorded three days after the explosion and shown in court Thursday.

Judge Evangelos Thomas presides over the Vaccari White Island explosion trial at the Auckland Environment Court in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, July 13, 2023. (Nick Monroe/Pool Photo via AP)

DePauw and one of the couples waded 150 meters (492 ft) to 200 meters (656 ft) into the water before the ash reached them.

“The moment I hit the water it turned black. The ash came and hit us and I couldn’t see anything,” he said.

“It would be a minute or two. “I was underwater, trying to hold my breath as long as I could until I saw some light through the ash,” DePauw added.

In this Dec. 13, 2019, photo obtained via social media, members of a rescue team are seen at the White Island volcano, also known by its Maori name Whakari, in New Zealand. New Zealand Defense Force/Manual via REUTERS

He then helped two of his passengers who escaped scalding in a boat. The man had lost his glasses, and the woman’s contact lenses were scratched by the gray cloud, so they both struggled to see.

Couple “burned badly” who couldn’t reach waterDePauw said.

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Court photographs show that the force of the volcano knocked Teba’s helicopter off its landing pad and bent its rotors.

Rescue workers on the island after the explosion. Manual via New Zealand Defense Force/REUTERS

Under questioning by prosecutor Steve Simons on Thursday, DePauw said he thought there would have been warning signs before the volcano erupted. I didn’t know then that the volcano erupted in 2016.

If the volcano is going to erupt, “I understand there will be some signs and some time to evacuate the island,” DePauw said.

He said his only injuries were a cut on his knee, a pulled back muscle and temporary gray irritation over his eye.

Image of White Island after the explosion. Reuters

The owners of the island, brothers Andrew, James and Peter Buttle; His company Whakaari Management Ltd.; Also tour operators IT Tours NZ Ltd and Tauranga Tourism Services Ltd have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Other tour operators have pleaded guilty and will be fined later.

Each company faces a maximum fine of NZ$1.5 million ($927,000), while the accused brothers each face a maximum fine of NZ$300,000 ($185,000).

The trial, scheduled to last 16 weeks, was adjourned on Thursday and will resume on Monday.

(With information from AP)

Continue reading:

Six bodies have been recovered from White Island and the death toll has risen to 14.
New Zealand takes desperate measures to save victims of Wakkari eruption
Horror in Wakkari: How victims died in New Zealand volcano that surprised tourists