Winona Langford: What Happened to Her? Was Her Body Found?

Image Credit: The Age

When a group of 47 individuals set out to explore the Whakaari (or White Island) active stratovolcano in New Zealand on December 9, 2019, no one could’ve expected it would suddenly erupt. That’s because, as indicated in Netflix’s ‘The Volcano: Rescue From Whakaari,’ the isle had always been kind by only letting go if no one was around, which even led it to become a tourist spot. However, the events of the fateful afternoon were incredibly different as 22 lives were eventually claimed, amongst whom was Winona Langford — so now, let’s find out more about her, shall we?

Winona Langford: One of the Victims of the New Zealand Volcano Eruption

Although just 17, Winona Langford of Sydney, Australia, was reportedly kind, caring, mature, and daring in every positive sense of these terms, owing to the unwavering support of her entire family. Plus, as per her elder brother Jesse, then 19, they both relished in anything that gave them “adrenaline” by placing forth an “enjoyable risk,” which their parents Anthony and Kristine supported too. In fact, that day, the Langfords chose to join a White Island day tour on the same basis while celebrating water worker Anthony’s birthday on a vacation cruise onboard the Ovation of the Seas.

Though neither Winona nor her loved ones ever imagined their excitement to see a volcano up close and personal would soon pivot into their worst nightmare, with Jesse being the sole survivor. According to the latter’s account, their group had started to walk away from the steaming crater mere moments before it ejected a massive cloud of black smoke at 2:11 pm, resulting in sheer frenzy. The truth is while he was in the middle alongside his parents, his two years younger sister was at the front with tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman, who was the one to yell “Run” within seconds.

Unfortunately, this warning didn’t really make a difference as it was already too late for them to either reach the shore to jump into the water or find cover under a boulder not already burning hot. However, Jesse was still able to gather enough courage to walk in an attempt to find help for others once all activity ceased, only to be rushed to the mainland owing to his own extensive injuries. On the other hand, Anthony was barely breathing by the time volunteer rescuers arrived to airlift any survivors to nearby medical centers, where he later succumbed to his wounds. Winona, Kristine, and Hayden were reportedly, sadly, amongst the eight the brave helicopter pilots had to leave behind since they’d already passed.

Winona Langford’s Body Was Never Found

No, neither Winona’s nor Hayden’s remains have ever been recovered from the White Island or the nearby sea despite numerous official searches in the weeks following the catastrophic eruption. Yet it’s actually imperative to note the first time anyone approached the isle after the volunteers had returned was four days later due to fear of a second outburst and a storm hitting the region. That’s why the formal rescue teams were held from carrying out a mission upon the incident, and civilian pilots were ordered not to return — the military thus recovered six bodies on December 13.

It is believed both Winona and Hayden were swept out deep into the sea during the aforecited storm — part of the reason a New Zealand chief coroner declared them dead in late January 2020. We should mention that by this point, a funeral for the Australian teen as well as her parents had already been held by their family, which Jesse attended via a live stream from his hospital bed.

Nevertheless, the then-19-year-old college student had still written a eulogy to be read aloud by the officiant, in which he paid a heartfelt tribute to each member of his loving, now-lost family individually. For his sister, in particular, he candidly expressed: “Losing Winona hurts most of all as she was like a best friend I have had by my side my whole life. It makes it so much harder that I could not properly say goodbye to her due to her still being missing.”

Jesse continued, “As a protective older sibling, I would have done anything and everything for Winona, and it breaks my heart that I can no longer do that. Having a sibling that is like a best friend is so rare, which will [make] losing her so much harder to deal with as it is one less person I have to talk to.” Then, he concluded by stating, “I love you, Mum, Dad, and Winona. I will hold you close to my heart for the rest of my life.”

Read More: Where is Hayden Marshall-Inman’s Brother Mark Inman Now?