New Zealand police charge driver in Boston U crash

New Zealand police filed charges Friday against a 20-year-old Boston University student who drove a minivan in a crash that killed three of his college classmates last week.

Stephen Houseman, of Massapequa, NY, made his first court appearance Friday afternoon in Auckland wearing a sling on his arm from his own injuries in the crash, the New Zealand Herald reported. The paper said he was remanded without plea until his next appearance in June.

Houseman faces three charges of careless driving causing death against and another four charges of careless driving causing injury. Each of the charges carries a maximum jail term of three months.

Twenty-six Boston University students studying this semester in New Zealand and Australia were traveling in three minivans to a well-known volcanic crater hike May 12 when one of the minivans rolled.

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

The driver and four other students were injured. One of them, Meg Theriault, remains in critical condition at a local hospital, but the others have been released.

In a statement Friday, police inspector Kevin Taylor said charging the student "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."

Police said earlier that the single-vehicle wreck appeared to happen after the minivan drifted to the side of the road. The driver tried to correct his course, and the minivan then rolled several times.

Taylor said police do not believe the driver or any other students involved used alcohol or drugs before the crash. He said he has met with the surviving students and their families to explain New Zealand's legal process and to return their belongings.