As the country marks the one-year anniversary of the Whakaari/White Island volcanic eruption on Wednesday 9 December, St John extends its thoughts and compassion to the patients and their families who continue to be affected by this tragic event.

Today St John staff will gather together to observe commemorations and acknowledge the impact the eruption had on victims and survivors, the wider Whakatane community and our own St John staff.

This was an unprecedented incident in which our ambulance crews assessed and treated many critically injured patients, and we are incredibly proud of the way all our people responded on that day. Their commitment, clinical skill and care, both immediately following and in the days after the eruption, highlights the professionalism and empathy paramedics bring to their work.

St John responded with 10 ambulances, seven incident managers and 11 rescue helicopters. Around 35 ambulance officers responded to the scene on the ground in Whakatane from various locations, including Rotorua and Tauranga, and were assisted by many more support staff in the background. St John staff treated and transported 34 patients to various hospitals and our Friends of the Emergency Department (FEDs) volunteers also played an important role on the day.

Helicopters from around the North Island transferred patients overnight to burns centres in Auckland, Waikato, Lower Hutt and Wellington.

Sadly the 2019 eruption wasn’t the only mass casualty event to affect New Zealand in recent times. We have discovered that while no one is immune from the impact of being exposed to trauma, our ambulance officers and clinical staff are incredibly resilient, and we will continue to provide support to them for as long as is needed.

The effect of the Whakaari eruption on so many cannot be underestimated. We are touched by the kindness shown to our staff by the people of Whakatane. It is heartening to see that in these times of crisis Kiwis come together and support each other.

Please attribute to Dan Ohs St John Deputy Chief Executive - Ambulance Operations.

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