Royal Caribbean, NZ tour company sued after couple sustains 'catastrophic injuries' during volcano eruption

The newlyweds were left with third degree burns covering their bodies

Royal Caribbean Cruises and ID Tours New Zealand Ltd. have been served with a lawsuit seeking damages for severe burns a couple suffered when a volcano erupted during a New Zealand shore excursion.

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In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Matt and Lauren Urey claim the tour and cruise company failed to caution passengers about the increased dangers of the White Island volcano during the December 2019 outing.

"At the beginning of the excursion, the tour guides did not inform passengers, and/or the plaintiffs of the increased alert levels, the increased volcanic activity and/or the increased risk of eruption," the lawsuit states, adding that shortly before the eruption passengers were taken to "what appeared to be" the center of the volcano.

NEW ZEALAND VOLCANO ERUPTION LEAVES 'NO SIGNS OF LIFE' ON ISLAND

There were 47 people visiting the tourist destination of White Island when the volcano erupted Dec. 9. The harrowing event killed 19 people and left more than two dozen others "catastrophically injured" a spokesperson from the firm, Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A  told FOX Business in an email.

"We continue to support the needs of those affected by this tragic incident," a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean told FOX Business. The company declined to comment further while the investigation is still proceeding.

ID Tours New Zealand Ltd. did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment.

Tourists on a boat look at the eruption of the volcano on White Island, New Zealand on Dec. 9, 2019. (Michael Schade via AP)

Matt and Lauren were newlyweds aboard the ship for their honeymoon when they took part in the excursion which was allegedly arranged by Royal Caribbean, according to the lawsuit.

Although they survived, Matt had sustained burns to 54 percent of his body with a majority, 30 to 39 percent, being deemed third-degree burns, according to the lawsuit. Similarly, Lauren had sustained burns to 23 percent of her body wherein 10 to 19 percent were considered third-degree burns, court papers show.

The lawsuit further claims that the cruise company had only advertised White Island as "one of the most active volcanoes in the world."

"The potential danger of participating in this excursion was not open or obvious to the Plaintiffs based on this description because an “active” volcano is defined as a volcano that has had at least one eruption during the past 10,000 years," the suit continued.

NEW ZEALAND VOLCANO ERUPTS, AT LEAST 5 DEAD, RESCUERS CAN'T ACCESS ISLAND

This particular volcano had erupted multiple times within the past 10 years with the most recent incident occurring in 2016, court papers show.

What's more, the volcano "was showing signs of unrest" for several weeks prior to the trip, the suit stated.

"Volcanic tremors and sulphur dioxide gas were at their highest levels since the last eruption in 2016, indicating that an eruption was more likely to occur," the lawsuit stated.

Additionally, the volcano’s alert level was raised to a level 2 a few weeks before the trip took place, which is the highest level it can be prior to erupting, the suit alleged adding that this further indicated "heightened volcanic unrest."

Royal Caribbean "knew or should have known that there was a high potential for the volcano to erupt during this excursion based on the increased alert level issued by New Zealand’s volcano monitoring service, GeoNet, in the weeks and days before Plaintiffs’ cruise," the firm told FOX Business in an email.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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