Hope dies for inseparable mum and daughter
IT WAS meant to be the trip of a lifetime for a Brisbane mother and daughter who did everything together and relished the outdoors.
But days of hoping by family that Julie, 47, and Jessica Richards, 20, survived Monday's volcanic eruption on New Zealand's White Island was cruelly "snuffed out" yesterday when the pair became the first confirmed Australian victims of the disaster.
Julie's ex-husband Tony Richards was lost for words to describe his grief.
"It doesn't seem real, I can't explain it, there are no words," he said.
"They were best mates, did everything together.
"Jess meant everything to me, she was my baby."
Mr Richards said his daughter was always doing something exciting.
"She loved life and was doing something new and different," he said.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she knew members of the Richards family, and offered her condolences.
"I know how much Julie and Jessica are loved and how terribly devastating their loss is," Ms Palaszczuk tweeted.
"I offer my profound condolences to everyone going through what this family is going through."
Longtime family friend and former Labor MP John Mickel said the deaths of the adventure-loving pair had left family and friends shattered.
"Everybody wants their loved one to come back from that great holiday they've been looking forward to for months. The family we're hoping for great news," he said.
"But the hope was snuffed out this morning with the message from the NZ police."
Mr Mickel asked Queenslanders to keep in their thoughts family members who were "united in grief" just weeks out from Christmas.
"Today is the roughest … and there's going to be a couple of rough days ahead," he said. "They would have been on this massive high at seeing your loved ones going (on a cruise) and of course once this news hits, there's this enormous deep-felt tragedy that goes with that."
The exact circumstances surrounding their deaths are still unclear.
Passengers on the cruise ship Ovation of the Seas, Julie and Jess had taken a day trip to White Island, also known as Whakaari, when it exploded and sent deadly debris and gas into the air.
Mr Mikel said family were taking some "small comfort" in knowing they perished together doing what they loved.
"The family have asked me to describe Julie and Jess as being outdoor adventure people," he said.
"They really loved the cruise atmosphere but more particularly they loved the adventurism that went with all the outdoor sports.
"If there was an adventure that offered itself, then they would be the ones to do it. "
Photos on social media show the mother and daughter adoring each other's company as they did fun runs, snorkelling, boat tours, sightseeing trips and holidays.
Jessica was a promising Australian rules player whose lifelong love of animals saw her embark on veterinary science degree at the University of Queensland.
"She was making a great life for herself," Mr Mickel said.
Julie, who had separated from her husband, was a successful IT expert who part-owned a software company on the Gold Coast.
Professor Nigel Perkins, from the UQ School of Veterinary Science, said the campus was devastated by "the tragic news from NZ".
"Jessica was a gifted, compassionate, high achieving veterinary technology student with a love for equine science," he said.
"Her loss will be deeply felt by students and staff from The University of Queensland's Gatton campus.
"Jessica touched the lives of many, and our thoughts are with her family and friends at this most difficult time."
NZ police yesterday told the family of Adelaide man Gavin Dallow, 53, that his body had been recovered, while his stepdaughter Zoe Hosking, 15, is presumed dead.
Gavin's wife and Zoe's mother, Lisa Dallow, 49, had been missing after the eruption but have been found with critical injuries in hospital.
Gavin's father Brian Dallow said Gavin, 53, was the kind of person who "if he'd known there was a danger he wouldn't have gone".
Mr Dallow said Zoe, a member of the Girl Guides, was always on the go.
"Zoe was one of those people always busy … she sang the national anthem at the opening of the baseball the other week," Mr Dallow said.
Concerned family and friends of a Sydney family are also desperately trying to find out the fate of their loved ones.
Sydney's Knox Grammar School on Tuesday told parents Year 8 student Matthew, 14, and Year 10 student Berend, 16, and parents Martin, 48, and Barbara Hollander were among the missing.
There were reports missing Sydney man Jesse Langford, 19, had been identified as one of the 30 people being treated in seven hospitals across NZ, 25 of whom are in a critical condition with severe burns.
Parents Anthony Langford, 51, Kristine Langford and his sister Winona, 17, are believed to be in hospital with the 19-year-old's former school having said on Tuesday the family was missing.