13 May 2012

US students warned against driving on NZ roads

9:51 pm on 13 May 2012

The American students involved in a fatal car crash near Turangi on Saturday were warned against driving on New Zealand roads when they arrived in this country.

Daniela Rosanna Lekhno, Roch Jauberty and Austin Brashears, all in their early 20s, died when their van rolled on gravel on Lake Rotoaira Road (also known as State Highway 46), south of the Tongariro National Park, about 7.30am on Saturday.

They were part of a group of eight students from Boston University who were travelling in convoy with another vehicle of students to Tongariro Crossing in the central North Island.

Inspector Kevin Taylor says it appears the van drifted onto gravel on the side of the road and the occupants were thrown from the vehicle when it rolled.

A 21-year-old woman remains in a critical condition at Waikato Hospital, while two women, aged 20 and 21, are in a stable condition at Rotorua Hospital on Sunday. A woman and man, both 21, were discharged after treatment in Taupo Hospital.

According to an article on Boston University's website, during orientation all students are advised of the risks of driving on New Zealand's roads.

The article says the students are advised not to rent cars, and if they do they are warned to be extremely careful, "because New Zealand roads are not the best in the world."

University touched by NZ support over deaths

Boston University says it has been saddened by the death of the three students but touched by support from their New Zealand hosts.

Kenneth Elmore, the university's Dean of Students, told Radio New Zealand News they have received condolences and support from friends and employers in New Zealand.

"I even understand a Member of Parliament went to speak with our students ... We are most appreciative of the support and the real heartfelt love that we've received from throughout New Zealand."

Auckland University, where the group was studying, says the students were due to sit end of semester exams in June, which would have completed their course work in the country.

The university's international office director, David Baker, says the students started in March this year and it is likely they would have stayed on to travel. Mr Baker says those who are able to are returning to Auckland where counselling will be provided.

Boston University has also been providing counselling to students who were friends of those killed or injured.

Another group rescued from Tongariro Crossing

Police were also called to the rescue of five other American students on Saturday night who were trapped on the side of Mount Ngauruhoe on the Tongariro Crossing in icy conditions and steep terrain.

The group, aged 20 and 21, set out in the morning and hiked over Mount Tongariro to the Emerald Lakes before doubling back to Mount Ngauruhoe.

Senior Constable Barry Shepherd says they called police just before 5pm when they became stuck.

A rescue helicopter found the group huddled together, clinging to the side of the mountain just below the summit on the south-east face.

None had suffered serious injuries.