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Student felt helpless at fatal crash scene

Seeing his injured Boston University classmates lying in a New Zealand roadway after their minivan rolled over, Evan White said, he felt helpless.

"Our first impulse was to do whatever we could, but everyone had a sense of helplessness," White, a junior riding in one of three minivans carrying the students on a hiking trip, told the school's website. "I helped people away from the van. Others ran to a house to get help."

The Saturday morning crash killed three students and injured five others, one critically.

The school said 26 students were traveling in the three vans 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 and then rolled when the driver tried to correct course near the North Island vacation town of Taupo, New Zealand police said.

The driver of the van White was in saw the crash in his mirror, pulled over and backed up to the crash site, the school said. The driver of the third didn't see the accident and continued to the initial destination.

New Zealand police spokeswoman Kim Perks said Sunday that any suggestion as to the cause of the crash at this stage is "just speculation."

Killed in the accident were Austin Brashears, of Huntington Beach, Calif.; Daniela Lekhno, of Manalapan, N.J.; and Roch Jauberty, of Paris, France.

The critically injured student, Margaret Theriault, of Salisbury, Mass., was airlifted to a hospital in Taupo. Local health official Mary Anne Gill said Sunday the 21-year-old woman had surgery Saturday and was in intensive care.

Police said two other women, one 20 and the other 21, were in stable condition. The other two -- a man, 20, and woman, 20, -- were released Saturday.

All the students except Theriault were enrolled in a BU program in Auckland, the university said. She was enrolled in a program in Sydney, Australia.