Friday, May 18, 2012

New Zealand: Update/ Boston University Student Charged in Accident

As a follow-up to my May 13 posting concerning the deaths of three Boston University students, as well as injuries to others, my initial instinct that a BU student was driving one of the vans involved in the accident proved to be valid.

According to the news outlet, Auckland Now, US citizen Stephen Houseman, 20, also a BU student, appeared in Auckland District Court  on three counts of careless driving causing death and four counts of careless driving causing injury. He was remanded on bail until June 8. Houseman has also been asked to surrender his passport to court officials.

Austin Brashears, 21, Daniela Rosanna Lekhno, 20, and Roch Jauberty, 21, died when the van they were traveling in rolled over on a bend on State Highway 46 south of Turangi  at 0730 hours last Saturday.

A fourth BU student, Meg Theriault, 21, is still in critical condition at Waikato Hospital after suffering a serious head injury.

COMMENT: The students were part of a group of BU students traveling in a convoy on their way to hike Tongariro Crossing. All were in New Zealand on a six-month exchange program.

Although local police have been very sensitive and understanding to Houseman's age and inexperience, they also made it clear that justice is mandated whenever lives are lost. Fortunately, drug and alcohol use on the part of any of the students, including the driver, have already been ruled out.  

As most of our readers now know, my first instinct was that the driver was a BU student, which has been confirmed. If there is any culpability in this case it falls on Boston University, which should have had rigorous written policies in place PROHIBITING BU students from driving while abroad.

From the facts, it seems logical that whomever was responsible for the student program in New Zealand, they should have hired a local driver to transport the students to and from Tongariro Crossing.

As I have pointed out numerous times in previous postings, road travel in New Zealand is  particularly hazardous even for highly experienced drivers. To expect a US student with no overseas driving experience to accept the responsibility for so many lives is imprudent.