NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

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May 13, 2012

Newburyport High grad seriously injured in New Zealand accident

Was on excursion with Boston University students

— WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- A 2009 Newburyport High School graduate on a weekend excursion in New Zealand was seriously injured in an accident that killed three of her fellow classmates from Boston University.

Margaret “Meg” Theriault, 21, of Salisbury is reported to be in intensive care after being airlifted from the crash site to a hospital, where she underwent surgery.

Theriault was among a group of Boston University students studying abroad who were touring the area near the North Island vacation town of Taupo early Saturday morning New Zealand time.

The minivan the students were riding in suddenly drifted to the side of the road and then rolled when the driver tried to correct course, New Zealand police said.

Three of the students died at the scene, police said. The other five students in the van were injured, with Theriault hurt most seriously.

Theriault, a junior at Boston University, had surgery the day of the accident and remained in critical condition in intensive care the following day. Her parents have reportedly traveled to New Zealand to be with her.

All the students except Theriault were enrolled in a Boston University study abroad program in Auckland, according to Boston University.

Theriault was enrolled in a study abroad program in Sydney, Australia, where she worked as an intern for One Disease at A Time, according to her Facebook page. She reportedly had joined her classmates in New Zealand for the weekend.

The students, who were traveling with at least one other van load of Boston University students, were on their way to hike the Tongariro Crossing, a famous trek rated as one of the most spectacular in New Zealand. The hike crosses a volcanic crater in the central part of North Island.

Police official Kevin Taylor said it was unclear why the van drifted to the side of the road. He said some of the students were thrown from the vehicle, indicating they may not have been wearing seat belts.

New Zealand police spokeswoman Kim Perks said that any suggestion as to the cause of the crash at this stage is “just speculation,” and that the investigation into the accident “will take some time.”

According to Theriault’s Facebook page, she had been working as an operations intern at Little Duck Organics in Newburyport since last year and into earlier this year. She previously worked on the wait staff at Agave Mexican Bistro in Newburyport from 2008 to January 2011 and Chin Chin in Salisbury.

The accident claimed the lives of Austin Brashears from Huntington Beach, Calif.; Daniela Lekhno of Manalapan, N.J.; and Roch Jauberty, whose parents live in Paris, according to the university.

Study abroad program executive director Bernd Widdig called the students’ deaths an “unprecedented tragedy,” the worst to hit the program since it began in the 1980s. The New Zealand part of the program began in 2003 and involves courses at the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology.

The Associated Press contribured to this report.

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