A brave survivor of an explosion on a volcanic island that killed her father and sister said there were two things that kept her on the difficult road to recovery.
Stephanie Browitt, 25, from Melbourne, Australia, suffered horrific burns to 70% of her body and lost parts of her fingers in the explosion on White Island while vacationing in New Zealand in December 2019.
Her sister Krystal died in the explosion and father Paul died a month later.
Stephanie recovered in the hospital for six months before being allowed to return home to her mother Marie.
Since the tragedy, she has openly documented her path to recovery on Instagram, sharing stories about her father and sister.
In her last post, Stephanie confessed that she fought hard to recover not only to be with my mother again, but to see my fur baby again.
Stephanie’s dog, Arlo, was only six months old when tragedy struck and said it was hurtful to know that she missed him growing up in the hospital.
She said he was confused when his family “left” and their reunion with their “best friend” was “full of love” after six months.
Stephanie’s goal is to go for a walk with Arlo on a leash.
“He definitely makes it hard sometimes, 35kg of lint pulls 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 really is the greatest joy of my life, his eyes are always full of love and admiration!”
Stephanie also posted a birthday tribute to her mother Marie earlier this month saying she was her “number one supporter”.
She wrote: “It’s no longer a birthday for my mother, but I am so grateful for every year that my mother is still with me.
Stephanie was on a “cruise of a lifetime aboard the Ovation of the Seas” with her mother, father and sister when the tragedy struck 30 miles offshore on December 9, around 2:10 pm.
More than 20 tourists from Australia, the US, Germany, China and the UK died and another 26 were seriously injured.
Stephanie’s father Paul and sister Krystal were visiting the dangerous attraction while Marie was staying on the ship when the volcano suddenly erupted.
Stephanie said because her mother, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, escaped injury, people have difficulty understanding the real depth of their pain and suffering.
“Mothers have been through so much and I can’t even imagine the pain she went through, but here she keeps fighting every day to stay with me,” she wrote.
“She is just as strong as me and she doesn’t even notice it, but I will forever be grateful for all that she has and continues to do for me.”
She described how her mother had to pack her vacation luggage after the tragedy and bring it back to her empty home, which was usually full of “love and laughter”.
Stephanie wrote: “Then she finally had to organize my father and sister’s funeral. She drove home alone in a taxi after burying her family. Their screams could be heard. “
Local tourism authorities market White Island or “Whakaari” in Maori language as “the most accessible active marine volcano in the world”.
More than 20 tourists from Australia, the US, Germany, China and the UK died and another 26 were seriously injured in the explosion.
Despite an increase in volcanic activity, tourists have been allowed to visit the privately owned White Island, which runs tours daily and welcomes more than 10,000 people each year.