Family member of White Island victims speaks out
Bhupender (Vick) Singh
Auckland, January 31, 2020
With an incredibly heavy heart, I disclose that my Uncle Pratap Singh (nicknamed “Paul”) is the latest victim who did not survive from the Whakaari White Island incident.
He had suffered 55% burns in the volcano eruption that occurred on Dec 9, 2019.
He was transferred from Whakatane Hospital on December 10, 2019 to the Critical Care Unit at the Middlemore Hospital (in South Auckland).
Throughout his surgeries and treatment process, he fought bravely and battled hard for 50 days.
The doctors described him as a “fighter.”
He was on the White Island with his wife Mayuari Singh (also known as Mary) who was also admitted into the Middlemore ICU with 72% body burns.
She battled for 13 days before passing away on December 22, 2019.
They are survived by a 11-year-old son, and 6-year-old twin daughters.
Paul was an Indian-American entrepreneur, a dynamic leader, genuinely kind-hearted and spiritual with a charismatic personality well-known in the metro-Atlanta (US) community for his philanthropic and social service activities.
As the President of SEVA International Atlanta USA Chapter, he led the Sponsor-A-Child initiative — a project that funds hundreds of under-privileged children for education and health care.
He also served as an organisational member/sponsor at many local temples including ISKCON, Hindu Temple, Shakti Mandir.
For his volunteer work, he was honoured with the prestigious Bharat Gaurav (India’s Pride) Award for his outstanding contributions and numerous leadership roles in 2012.
Additionally, as an Atlanta patron, he was an active contributor to the advisory boards and neighbourhood planning units.
A Social Worker
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.
His unmatched exuberance and unconditional love for everyone around him will forever be missed.
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.
His family and friends who revered him as “Paul Bhai” (brother) will miss him dearly.
For the outside world, I have no words to describe how much he is loved, and for the people who know him, I have no words to describe you how much he loves you.
If you are reading this, deep down inside you know that.
You will meet a person like Pratap Singh only once in your lifetime, you know that.
We love his indomitable spirit and incorrigible attitude — there is absolutely no one like him.
Many have a good heart, but he has a huge one.
A ‘Super Mother’
My aunt Mary will be remembered as a beloved member of the American-Indian community, a true supermom, a responsible guardian, an ambitious professional, and an endearing friend who enjoyed sharing her culinary expertise and delicious homemade meals.
I am 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.
The heavenly couple lived a fascinating life together serving as the “central hub” for everyone around them — surviving children, immediate family members, relatives and friends are mourning their loss, we are all left shattered and heartbroken.
Their love is priceless, their presence is irreplaceable.
We miss them dearly and their memories are going to stay fresh in our hearts and minds for the times to come.
This changes everything, a new normal might be impossible to achieve for our family.
Family and friends will strive to gather inspiration and strength from Paul and Mary’s devotion.
They are both avid worshipers and devotees of Lord Shiva (the supreme God).
Shiva loves them more, more than us.
Supporting children worldwide
The Singh family would like to promote Paul and Mary’s mission to provide support to children across the world in need of food, shelter and education.
I plan to engage with Givealittle foundation for this cause.
Our family continues to pray for a healthy and fast recovery of the remaining survivors.
We offer our sincere condolences and do share the pain and sorrow of the families who have lost their loved ones in this tragic incident.
Expression of Gratitude
We would like to commend and acknowledge the doctors, consultants, nurses and the administrative staff of Middlemore Hospital for their efforts in providing best medical attention and care possible in New Zealand.
I would like to acknowledge the officials from New Zealand Police, immigration New Zealand and US Consulate in Auckland for offering help and support.
We appreciate our Family Liaison Officers Joe Hammon, Lio Kiahau, Helen Chiell and Victim Support Liaison Karnail Singh for supporting us through this tough journey.
We are requesting the extended relatives, friends and acquaintances to respect the family’s privacy and request for consent before approaching press and media for any interviews.
I visited Paul and Mary every day since December 10, 2019 while they were at the Middlemore Hospital. The last 50 days of their life were distressing, slow and agonising painful.
I seriously request and encourage Volcano Tourism in New Zealand and around the world to charter proper safety equipment including appropriate heat resistant gear/clothing, safety glasses, helmets and face masks.
Proper safety equipment would have saved my family.
Tours should not be operated without comprehensive disclosure of risks associated, and a complete assessment of geothermal and seismic activity.
The above article (slightly edited) and picture were received by us through the New Zealand Police.