New Zealand authorities have charged a Massapequa man with causing the deaths of three of his Boston University classmates and injuring four others after the minivan he was driving crashed en route to a study-abroad field trip.
Stephen Houseman, 20, appeared in court for the first time on Friday, wearing a sling from injuries he suffered in the crash, according to the New Zealand Herald.
He was charged with careless driving causing the deaths of the three Boston University students, as well as four counts of careless driving causing injury. The Associated Press reported that each of the charges carries a maximum of three months in jail.
Twenty-six college students studying abroad for the semester in New Zealand and Australia were traveling in three minivans to a volcanic crater hike on May 12 when the crash occurred.
Authorities said Houseman’s minivan drifted to the side of the road and rolled several times as he attempted to regain control of the vehicle.
Drugs or alcohol were not factors in the tragic crash, police said.
The three students who died were: Austin Brashears, of California; Daniela Lekhno, of New Jersey; and Roch Jauberty, of France.
The three other students who suffered injuries have been released, but a fourth student, Meg Theriault, remains in a hospital and is listed in critical condition. She was put in a medically induced coma, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Her parents released a statement to the publication and acknowledged that they met with Houseman’s parents.
“We feel their pain and he now has a journey of recovery much like our daughter does,” the statement read. “We understand there needs to be a court process and we support it.”
Police inspector Kevin Taylor released a statement explaining why police went ahead and charged Houseman.
It “is not a decision taken lightly and we understand the tragedy will already have had a significant impact on this young man. However, we are faced with a situation where three people have died and others are seriously injured and we must apply the law in an objective and dispassionate way.”
-With Associated Press