American newlyweds are 'progressing' from volcano burns

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The families of American newlyweds who were badly injured during a volcanic eruption in New Zealand said Tuesday the two are progressing as well as could be hoped for given the extent of their injuries.

The couple, Lauren Urey, 32, and Matt Urey, 36, from Richmond, Virginia, remain hospitalized in New Zealand. They were visiting White Island two weeks ago on their honeymoon when the volcano erupted, killing 19 people and leaving more than two dozen others with severe burns from the scalding steam.

Meanwhile, authorities on Tuesday called off the search for two bodies they believe were washed out to sea from the island soon after the eruption. Police Superintendent Andy McGregor said extensive shoreline and aerial searches had not turned up anything new.

The families of the newlyweds issued a statement through New Zealand police.

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White Island volcano in New Zealand erupts
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White Island volcano in New Zealand erupts
In this Dec. 9, 2019, photo provided by Michael Schade, tourists on a boat look at the eruption of the volcano on White Island, New Zealand. Unstable conditions continued to hamper rescue workers from searching for people missing and feared dead after the volcano off the New Zealand coast erupted in a towering blast of ash and scalding steam while dozens of tourists explored its moon-like surface. (Michael Schade via AP)
This Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, photo provided by Michael Schade shows the rescuers' boat leaving White Island following the eruption of the volcano, New Zealand. Officials say on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, 47 people from New Zealand, United States, Australia, Germany, Britain, China and Malaysia were on the New Zealand volcanic island when it suddenly erupted. Of those, dozens were killed, injured or are missing. Details are scarce because conditions on the island are too dangerous for officials to return and disaster victim identification experts have only begun their work. (Michael Schade via AP)
This Dec. 9, 2019, photo made from video and provided by Michael Schade shows the eruption of the volcano on White Island, New Zealand. Unstable conditions continued to hamper rescue workers from searching for people missing and feared dead after the volcano off the New Zealand coast erupted in a towering blast of ash and scalding steam while dozens of tourists explored its moon-like surface. (Michael Schade via AP)
In this Dec. 9, 2019, photo provided by Michael Schade, rescuers land on White Island following the eruption of the volcano on White Island, New Zealand. Unstable conditions continued to hamper rescue workers from searching for people missing and feared dead after the volcano off the New Zealand coast erupted in a towering blast of ash and scalding steam while dozens of tourists explored its moon-like surface. (Michael Schade via AP)
NEW ZEALAND shaded relief map, highlighted, with WELLINGTON (capital) and WHITE ISLAND locators, partial graphic
Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern (C) with New Zealand Police Superintendent Bruce Bird (L) and Whakatane Mayor Judy Turner (R) speak to the media about the eruption of Whakaari/White Island during a press conference in Whakatane on December 10, 2019. - New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed "unfathomable grief" on December 10 after a volcanic eruption on a popular tourist island that is thought to have claimed 13 lives. (Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFP) (Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)
WHAKATANE, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 10: Floral tributes are placed on a fence at the Whakatane Wharf on December 10, 2019 in Whakatane, New Zealand. 5 people are confirmed dead and several are missing following the volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images 2019)
TOPSHOT - Steam rises from the White Island volcano in Whakatane on December 10, 2019, after a volcanic eruption the day before. - New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed "unfathomable grief" on December 10 after a volcanic eruption on a popular tourist island that is thought to have claimed 13 lives. (Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFP) (Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)
WHAKATANE, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 10: Floral tributes are placed on a fence at the Whakatane Wharf on December 10, 2019 in Whakatane, New Zealand. 5 people are confirmed dead and several are missing following the volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
WHAKATANE, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 10: Public look out towards the coast from the Whakatane Wharf on December 10, 2019 in Whakatane, New Zealand. 5 people are confirmed dead and several are missing following the volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
WHAKATANE, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 10: Floral tributes are placed on a fence at the Whakatane Wharf on December 10, 2019 in Whakatane, New Zealand. 5 people are confirmed dead and several are missing following the volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
WHAKATANE, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 10: A women grieves after placing flowers on a fence at the Whakatane Wharf on December 10, 2019 in Whakatane, New Zealand. 5 people are confirmed dead and several are missing following the volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 10: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with Foreign Minister Marise Payne addressing media at Kirribilli House on December 10, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. Three Australians are feared amongst the dead and several are injured or missing following a volcanic eruption at White Island in the Bay of Plenty on Monday. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
WHAKATANE, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 10: Smoke and ash rises from a volcano on White Island early in the morning on December 10, 2019 in Whakatane, New Zealand. Five people are confirmed dead and several people are missing following a volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday. (Photo by John Boren/Getty Images)
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“There are no words to express how horrible this has been for everyone involved, but we are very lucky and grateful that although Lauren and Matt are severely injured, they're still with us,” the families said.

They said that while the two were progressing as well as could be hoped for, “they both have a tremendously difficult and long road to recovery ahead of them.”

The families said in the statement they wanted to thank the healthcare professionals that helped save their loved ones, as well as police and the American consulate in New Zealand.

The families said a GoFundMe page had been set up by the couple's close friends to help with expenses such as lost wages and ongoing medical care. The campaign had on Tuesday raised $51,000 toward a goal of $100,000.

On the GoFundMe page, organizer Aaron McKendry said on Dec. 14 that the couple had already undergone multiple surgeries and had many more to come in a process that would take months.

White Island, also known by its Maori name, Whakaari, is the tip of an undersea volcano about 50 kilometers (30 miles) off New Zealand’s North Island and was a popular tourist destination before the eruption.

Many people have questioned why tourists were still allowed on the island after New Zealand’s GeoNet seismic monitoring agency raised the volcano’s alert level on Nov. 18 from 1 to 2 on a scale where 5 represents a major eruption, noting an increase in sulfur dioxide gas, which originates from magma.

Police reported earlier that crews on a police boat had spotted a male body in the water near the island two days after the eruption, but large waves prevented them from recovering it before it sank.

Police have identified the pair believed to be washed out to sea as New Zealand tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman, 40, and Australian teenager Winona Langford, 17.

New Zealand authorities are investigating the circumstances around the disaster.

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