With graduation approaching, a time for celebration turned somber at Boston University (BU) on Saturday as students who were packing up at the end of the school year learned that three classmates studying in New Zealand were killed when their minivan crashed during a weekend trip.
Five other students were injured in the accident early on Saturday, including one who was in critical condition.
Boston University spokesman Colin Riley said those killed in the accident were Daniela Lekhno, 20, of Manalapan, New Jersey; Austin Brashears, 21, of Huntington Beach, California; and Roch Jauberty, 21, whose parents live in Paris.
The students were traveling in a minivan near the North Island vacation town of Taupo when the van drifted to the side of the road and then rolled when the driver tried to correct course, New Zealand police said.
Three of the students died at the scene, police said. Another woman was in critical condition at a hospital, while four other students sustained moderate injuries.
New Zealand police yesterday said two injured victims — both women, one 20 and the other 21 — remain hospitalized in stable condition. The other two injured in the crash — a 20-year-old man and 20-year-old woman — were released on Saturday.
Another BU student, Margaret Theriault, was airlifted from the crash site to a hospital in Taupo and remained in critical condition a day after the accident. In a statement yesterday afternoon, local health official Mary Anne Gill said the 21-year-old woman had surgery on Saturday night and was in intensive care.
New Zealand police spokeswoman Kim Perks yesterday said that any suggestion as to the cause of the crash at this stage was “just speculation,” and that the investigation into the accident “will take some time.”
Brashears’ mother, Julie, told The Boston Globe that he frequently posted new photographs on Facebook documenting his adventures in New Zealand, including bungee-jumping off the Auckland Harbor Bridge on his birthday. She said he planned weekend outings for the study abroad group.
“Everyone called him the cruise director,” she said. “He wanted to include everybody on the trips. He loved having an eclectic group of friends.”
Student body president Howard Male, a friend of Brashears, said the BU students had posted Facebook updates in anticipation of the trip, saying they hoped to view scenery captured on film in the Lord of the Rings movies.
“They were all so excited to be able to go explore what many guidebooks ... have called some of the most beautiful places on the planet,” Male said.
At the university, final exams ended on Friday, and there were few outward signs of any socializing on Saturday morning. The student union was deserted. The main activity involved students in the dorms hauling out boxes and pushing rolling bins filled with their belongings to waiting moving trucks or their parents’ cars as they scurried to meet a noon deadline to clear out.
Student Marcelle Richard, who was moving out after finishing her freshman year, said news of the other students’ deaths was “really upsetting.”
“They were abroad, and it’s so sad that something has to happen when you are supposed to be experiencing one of the best times of your life,” said Richard, 18.
Richard, of New Orleans, said the tragedy will not stop her from going abroad to study later in her college career.