- Associated Press - Sunday, May 13, 2012

BOSTON (AP) — Tori Pinheiro shed tears and shared the sorrow of the loss of her boyfriend as Boston University students, faculty and officials gathered in a campus plaza to mourn three classmates studying abroad who died in a minivan crash in New Zealand.

Miss Pinheiro told the few hundred who gathered at BU’s Marsh Plaza on Saturday night that her boyfriend, Austin Brashears, was among those who died earlier in the day, half a world away. She cried as she recalled how friendly he was and how much she loved him.

She said he recently had left her a voice mail saying he missed her and she has been playing it repeatedly.

“I listened to it four times, just to hear your voice,” she told the crowd as she tried to fight back tears.


Mr. Brashears was from Huntington Beach, Calif. The university says the other students killed were Daniela Lekhno of Manalapan, N.J., and Roch Jauberty, whose parents live in Paris.

“We know these students were alive with hopes, dreams and potential and capacity, all dashed,” university President Robert Brown said.

A deep sense of loss cast a pall over the campus as some students anticipated approaching graduation and others packed at the end of the school year.

Five other students were injured in the accident early Saturday, including one who was in critical condition.

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 said Sunday two injured victims — both women, one 20 and the other 21 — remain hospitalized in stable condition. The other two injured — a 20-year-old man and 20-year-old woman — were released 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 Sunday afternoon, local health official Mary Anne Gill said the 21-year-old woman had surgery Saturday and was in intensive care.

New Zealand police spokeswoman Kim Perks said Sunday that any suggestion as to the cause of the crash at this stage is “just speculation” and that the investigation into the accident “will take some time.”

Efforts by the Associated Press to reach family members of Ms. Lekhno and Mr. Brashears were unsuccessful Saturday. A person who answered the phone at the home of Ms. Lekhno’s family declined to comment, and a message left at a phone listing for Mr. Brashears‘ family wasn’t immediately returned.

Mr. Brashears‘ mother, Julie, told the Boston Globe that he frequently posted new photos 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.

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