Family of White Island volcano victim knocked back by travel insurer because he was “touring”

The family of a man who died in the White Island/Whakaari volcano tragedy have had their loss of life claim rejected by his travel insurer because his death did not arise from “transport”.

Jason Griffiths was 33-years-old when he was killed by the volcanic explosion on Whakaari in December 2019 while on a Royal Caribbean cruise with a group of friends.

His mother, Karen Griffiths, told ABC News he had paid thousands for the trip using his American Express card, because of the complimentary travel insurance it provided, but when his family went to make a claim, they were rejected.

“It’s just so wrong on so many levels,” she said, adding that he had used the complimentary insurance on a number of holidays he had been on.

“For anyone else out there that has American Express, I’d be thinking twice, I really would.”

Twenty-two people died from injuries caused by the deadly volcanic eruptionthat took place on Whakaari in December 2019.

A total of 47 people, including 24 Australians, were on the island as part of a shore excursion for Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas when the eruption occurred.

Chubb Insurance, the provider used by American Express, told the family’s lawyer Griffiths was only covered while he was on board the cruise ship, while waiting at the terminal or in transit to or from the ship.

He was not, however, covered while “touring”.

In a letter seen by ABC News, the insurance provider said Griffiths was walking away from the crater when he was fatally injured and was not using a means of transport.

“Unfortunately, either way, there is no loss arising from ‘transport’ to or from a Common Carrier Conveyance for which the relevant cover is engaged,” the letter said.

Travel Weekly has contacted Chubb Insurance for more details.

Griffiths’ mother said the decision was “like a kick in the guts”.

She told ABC News that the family had evidence that her son was walking back to the boat that was about to take the group back to the ship but it wasn’t “enough”.

“Then they came back and said ‘no, he had to be on the boat going back to the ship’,” she said.

“What’s the difference, he was still on his way back?

“Had he been on that boat, we wouldn’t be in this predicament now. He would have been alive today.”

Travel Weekly has contacted American Express for comment, but had not received a reply at the time of publishing.

However, a spokeswoman for the company told ABC News it would reach out to Griffiths’ family to offer financial support.

“Unfortunately, Mr Griffiths’ death was not caused by a transport accident but rather a volcanic eruption, and therefore his death was not covered by this benefit,” the spokeswoman said.

“Given the extraordinary circumstances involved, American Express and Chubb are in the process of reaching out to the family to provide financial support.”

Featured image source: iStock/dan_prat

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