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University Stunned by New Zealand Tragedy

Students react to loss of three classmates


With the campus largely deserted following the finale of classes and finals, students took to cyberspace to express condolences for, and share memories of, three classmates killed in a van rollover in New Zealand. Some who remained at BU sadly mulled the latest in a string of tragic incidents that have marred this semester.

Joshua Wright (SMG’12) had taken a class with Daniela Lekhno (SMG’13), one of the victims. “She was just honestly the brightest person,” he says. “Although she was quiet, every single time she smiled, every time she laughed, you knew it was just so genuine. It’s really hard to lose such bright people, such positive people.”

Also killed in the accident were Roch Jauberty (CAS’14) and Austin Brashears (ENG’13). Margaret Theriault (SMG’13) was in critical condition and airlifted to a hospital in Hamilton. Stephen Houseman (SHA’13), Alys McAlpine (SMG’13), Emily Melton (CAS’14), and Kathy Moldawer (CAS’12) suffered less serious injuries. All were taking part in a BU study abroad program.

With most students gone for the summer, a lot of students keep in touch “via communication on Facebook, and a lot of the communication is sincere condolences,” Wright says. “It’s hit the community in engineering, SMG, CAS, SHA. Every school had a piece of them gone missing. It’s been the culmination of so many different things that have affected BU—it’s really hard to deal with.”

The school year has witnessed one GSM student murdered, two male hockey players charged with sexual assault, and a student who was seriously injured jumping from a burning Allston apartment building. “But when you lose life, it’s really just a hefty thing to deal with,” Wright says.

News of the “devastating” triple deaths “feels like: not another thing—not again,” says Caroline Booth (SAR’13). “I love BU and I really want people to come here and appreciate the school for what it is. And it’s just so depressing, because I feel if I were an incoming freshman and deciding whether or not to go to BU, this might affect my decision in a bad way.”

Kaylee Bates (SMG’12) spent the fall in BU’s Sydney, Australia, study abroad program, the same program one of the injured students, Theriault, is enrolled in. “I can kind of picture myself being there, because my friends were doing the same thing, road-tripping around all of New Zealand,” she says. “I think you always hope that it won’t happen; it sounds like it was just a freak car accident that could happen here.”

While other schools have had similar tragedies, says Jared Champion (GRS’13), the BU students were so far from home that it fuels a sense of helplessness. “BU had no control over it. There’s a sense of tragedy here that cuts a little deeper.”

Deans of the victims’ schools took on the sad tasks of email alerts to students, readying memorials, and guiding grieving members of the BU community to counseling services.

“Any harm that comes to any Boston University student touches us all,” says Virginia Sapiro, dean of Arts & Sciences. “Because all BU undergraduates take a lot of their courses in CAS, they are all known to our students and faculty, and their loss and hurt is felt deeply across the college.” There will be a moment of remembrance for Jauberty on CAS Class Day, she says.

Kenneth Lutchen, dean of the College of Engineering, emailed his faculty, staff, and students with news of the accident. He ended his email, “Sincerely and with a Sad Heart.”

Marsh Chapel Dean Robert Hill led a Saturday evening vigil for the victims “to remember with thanksgiving the lives of these young adults and begin the hard work of grappling with these sad circumstances.” Marsh Chapel chaplains stand ready to counsel students and can be reached at 617-353-3560.

“As soon as you’re born, you’re in line to die,” Hill says, “but these students were far too young to die.”

Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

7 Comments on University Stunned by New Zealand Tragedy

  • Todd Nicholls on 05.13.2012 at 5:27 am

    As a New Zealander who has recently spent a year in Boston (following his wife who was studying in the city) I know I speak for all New Zealanders when I say that our thoughts and prayers are with you all. We are united in grief about these young lives lost. The Maori say Kia kaha. It means stay strong. You are not alone.

  • Just another BU mom on 05.13.2012 at 3:03 pm

    Heartbreaking. Prayers for all those involved and their families.

  • Don Makson on 05.13.2012 at 10:31 pm

    My heart breaks for all. My prayers are with you. May God bless you all.

  • Just another BU parent on 05.14.2012 at 11:24 am

    As a BU parent who has driven in the UK, taught three kids to drive, and has sent a daughter abroad to study, I am stunned that there is no more information about the accident. Isn’t there an accident report?

  • Lulu on 05.14.2012 at 11:27 am

    My condolence。Wish they will rest in peace! Good people…

  • Barbara on 05.15.2012 at 12:42 am

    I grew up in the area where the three precious lives were lost. They did not choose to die there, but that has come to pass and I too mourn their passing. The area is a spiritual place for the Maori and New Zealand. The mountains there will keep memories of Daniela, Austin and Roch forever young, safe and sacred.

    To “Just another BU parent”, I sense your impatience and frustration. I do not share them. The full details will be hard for everyone to bear when they are known.

    Rest in Perfct Peace Daniela Lekhno, Austin Brashears, Roch Jauberty.
    Hold hands always and may your loved ones left behind be given comfort in their raw and unimaginable grief.

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