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Richmond couple recalls deadly volcanic eruption: 'It was terrifying'

Posted at 2:39 PM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 17:36:29-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A Richmond couple is filing a lawsuit today against a tour company and cruise line after surviving a deadly volcanic eruption in New Zealand.

The couple spoke about the incident for the first time with Anthony Mason on CBS This Morning on Thursday,

Matt and Lauren Urey claim that ID Tours New Zealand Limited and Royal Caribbean did not warn them on the possible danger of heightened volcanic activity on their excursion on White Island.

In December of 2019, the newlyweds decided to take a honeymoon cruise to Australia and New Zealand.

On December 9, they were taking pictures near the crater of the Whakaari White Island volcano when it started to erupt.

"And then we heard the tour guide just yell run," said Matt. "It was just pitch black. You couldn't see anything in front of you, and you could just feel your skin burning, getting pelted with rocks. It was terrifying."

After fighting through ash and smoke, they found their way to a tour boat which rushed them to the mainland.

Both were put in medically-induced comas and underwent skin grafts and plastic surgeries.

"I couldn't do anything. I couldn't go to the bathroom by myself, I couldn't brush my teeth," said Lauren. "And I just was wondering if I would ever be normal again."

The Urey's ended up at hospitals 600 miles apart and were reunited nearly two months later in the U.S.

They are continuing to work on their recovery in Virginia to gain more mobility.

"We actually sleep in separate beds because we just -- between the tossing and turning and general discomfort there's no way we can share a bed right now," said Matt.

In the weeks leading up to the eruption, the island's volcanic alert level was raise to a two- with three meaning an eruption.

They couple says Royal Caribbean and New Zealand did not notify them of the increased alert and if they had know they would not have gone to the island.

The eruption killed 21 people, mostly tourists.

In a statement to CBS News, Royal Caribbean said, quote: "We respectfully decline further comment while the investigation is still proceeding."

The Urey's hope to redo their honeymoon in a year or two.