American couple leaves terrifying voicemail after New Zealand volcano eruption

A Pennsylvania mother was "terrified" after receiving a voicemail from her son saying he and his wife had been badly burned in a volcano eruption in New Zealand.
/ Source: TODAY

A mother from Pennsylvania learned that her son and daughter-in-law had been badly burned in a volcano eruption off the coast of New Zealand on Monday when he left a frightening, late-night voicemail for her.

Janet Urey got a call in the middle of the night from her son, Matt, who was on a honeymoon vacation with his wife, Lauren, when a volcano on White Island erupted and sent a massive plume of burning ash, steam and gas into the air.

"Terrified,'' Urey said on TODAY Tuesday. "Any horrible emotion you can imagine. I didn't even listen to the full message. I hung up and quickly called him back, and at least got to hear his voice that he was at the hospital, but his hands were severely burned he really couldn't use the phone."

Lauren Urey's father, Rick Barham, told NBC News via text message that she was airlifted to Auckland, while Matt was taken to a burn unit in Christchurch.

He said Lauren suffered severe burns over 25% of her body, while Matt is in the intensive care unit with burns over 80% of his body.

"It's been a total nightmare," Barham said.

There were nine Americans among the 47 people on the uninhabited island, also known as Whakaari, when the volcano erupted, according to officials. Six tourists are confirmed dead and eight are missing and are presumed to be dead.

"I would strongly suggest that there is no one that has survived on the island," John Tims, deputy commissioner of the national police of those still missing, said at a press conference Monday.

Around 30 survivors ranging in age from 13 to 72 are being treated at burn units around the country, a Ministry of Health spokesperson told NBC News.

Rescue workers still can't get anywhere near the island, which is about 30 miles offshore from Whakatane, because it's so unstable and could possibly erupt again.

Police have been hinting at a criminal investigation into why tourists were allowed to go to the privately-owned island after the agency that manages the alert system had warned it wasn't stable.

“There will be questions that will be asked and do need to be answered by the appropriate authorities, and we will be ensuring that that happens. But for now we're focused on those who are caught up in this horrific event,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday.