“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 Mr. Brashears‘, said the Boston University 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,” Mr. Male said.
At the university, final exams ended 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 the 18-year-old Miss Richard, of New Orleans. She said the accident will not stop her from going abroad to study later in her college career.
Jordan Nunez, 22, a senior who is graduating next week, said the study abroad program is very popular among Boston University students. He estimates 25 percent to 30 percent of his friends traveled to foreign countries to study.
Still, the New Zealand accident has darkened the mood on campus, he said.
“You think everything’s always taken care for you, but things can happen wherever you are in the world,” he said. “It’s just something that’s sad for our community.”
Study abroad program Executive Director Bernd Widdig called the students’ deaths an “unprecedented tragedy,” the worst to hit the program since it began in the 1980s. The New Zealand part of the program began in 2003 and involves courses at the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology.
Sixteen students were traveling in two minivans on their way to hike the Tongariro Crossing, a famous trek rated as one of the most spectacular in New Zealand. The hike crosses a volcanic crater in the central part of the North Island.
None of the eight students in the second van was injured. Seven of those eight students were also from Boston University.
Police official Kevin Taylor said it was unclear why the van drifted to the side of the road. He said some of the students were thrown from the vehicle, indicating they may not have been wearing seat belts.
Associated Press writer Nick Perry contributed to this story from Wellington, New Zealand; AP writer Rodrique Ngowi contributed from Boston.