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NZ host of students in crash discouraged driving

Associated Press Modified: May 14, 2012 at 1:30 am •  Published: May 14, 2012

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The New Zealand university hosting U.S. students who were involved in a deadly weekend minivan crash said that they discourage international students from driving and will ratchet up those warnings in the future.

The cause of Saturday's crash, which killed three Boston University students traveling to a popular hiking spot, remains under investigation. But David Baker, director of Auckland University's international office, said he intends to step up warnings for international students not to drive because they may be unfamiliar with driving on the left side of the road or local conditions.

"It's plainly riskier than other forms of travel," he said. "The students, of course, are anxious to get out and see as much of the country as possible."

Baker said the university discourages students from driving during orientation seminars, encouraging them to instead consider alternatives like buses.

Boston University said 26 students were traveling in three minivans on their way to walk the Tongariro Crossing, a hike across a volcanic crater that is rated as one of New Zealand's most spectacular.

One of the minivans drifted to the side of the road around 7:30 a.m., then rolled when the driver tried to correct course near the North Island vacation town of Taupo, New Zealand police said.

New Zealand police official Kevin Taylor said it was unclear why the van drifted to the side of the road. He said some students were thrown from the vehicle, indicating they may not have been wearing seat belts. An investigation into the accident is going to take several days, he said Monday.

Killed were Austin Brashears, of Huntington Beach, Calif.; Daniela Lekhno, of Manalapan, N.J.; and Roch Jauberty, of Paris, France. Hundreds took part in a vigil at Boston University on Saturday night.

Brashears' father, Thomas, told the Orange County Register that his son "loved life, cherished adventure and nothing was more important than those he cared for."

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