A view shows White Island volcano on Dec. 10, 2019, after a volcanic eruption the day before.
Marty Melville—AFP/Getty Images
Updated: January 31, 2020 3:16 PM ET | Originally published: January 31, 2020 11:41 AM EST

An American couple have now both died from injuries sustained last month in a volcanic eruption in New Zealand, according to authorities.

New Zealand police said Thursday that Pratap Singh, 49, died at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland from the burns he suffered in the volcanic eruption on New Zealand’s White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. He becomes the twenty-first person to have died due to the eruption, police said. Singh’s wife, Mayuari, who was also injured in the eruption, died at the same hospital on Dec. 22.

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department confirmed that another American citizen injured in the volcanic eruption had passed away but did not release the victim’s identity. “We extend our sincerest condolences to the families of all those lost,” the agency said in a statement to TIME. Police said in December that about 47 people were on the island at the time of the eruption. Of the 47 people, nine were American. At least two other Americans — Berend Hollander, 16, and Matthew Hollander, 13 — died in the eruption, along with their parents.

The couple, who were from Atlanta, are survived by three children, including an 11-year-old son and 6-year-old twin daughters, according to a statement from their nephew, Vick Singh, released on behalf of the family. Pratap Singh suffered 55% body burns in the eruption, Singh said in his statement. Mayuari Singh, 42, who was admitted to the hospital with 72% body burns, died after a 13-day battle.

Courtesy of New Zealand Police

Vick Singh remembered Pratap, who was nicknamed “Paul,” as a “dynamic leader, genuinely kind-hearted, very spiritual individual with a charismatic personality known in the metro-Atlanta community for his philanthropic and social service activities.”

“My uncle Paul will be remembered as an invincible businessman, a passionate social worker/educator, a transparent decision maker, an event liaison and a celebrated member of the Indian-American community,” he wrote. “He was the best father, best guardian, best brother, best uncle, best volunteer and the best friend anyone could wish. The entire family grew and thrived under his leadership.”

Singh said Mayuari Singh was also a beloved member of the American-Indian community in Atlanta and a great cook.

“I’m sure that anyone who enjoyed any of her meticulously prepared handmade meals (Indian, American, Italian or Mexican) can certainly vouch for her. She was one of a kind — we love her, we miss her so much,” he wrote.

Singh also criticized White Island tour operators for not providing proper safety equipment, which he believes could have saved his relatives’ lives had it been available.

“I seriously request and encourage volcano tourism in NZ and around the world to charter proper safety equipment including appropriate heat resistant gear/clothing, safety glasses, helmets and face masks,” he wrote. “Tours should not be operated without comprehensive disclosure of risks associated, and a complete assessment of geothermal and seismic activity.”

 

 

Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com.

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