No jail time for driver in New Zealand crash that killed three Boston University students

The Boston University student who was driving a van that flipped and killed three fellow students during a study abroad trip to New Zealand will avoid jail time and is free to return home.

Meanwhile, another student critically injured in the crash is also headed back to the States.

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Stephen Houseman, 20, of Massapequa, N.Y., pleaded guilty to seven charges in Auckland District Court on Tuesday night. A judge handed him the minimum sentence: a six-month ban from driving in New Zealand and $941 in court costs.

Houseman was driving a van near the town of Turangi on May 11 when he swerved after hitting a gravel patch on the side of the road. The van flipped, killing three of the students: Austin Brashears, 21, of California; Daniela Lekhno, 20, of New Jersey; and Roch Jauberty, 21, of Paris, who grew up in California.

“The judge found a low level of carelessness,” said Marie Dyhrberg, Houseman’s lawyer. “It was just a momentary lapse where the vehicle just left the road.”

Another BU student, Meg Theriault, 21, of Salisbury, who was critically injured in the crash, boarded a flight back to Boston on Wednesday, according to a spokeswoman for the Waikato Hospital in New Zealand where she has been being treated.

Theriault was life-flighted from the scene of the crash with severe head injuries. Her parents, Todd and Deb, said their daughter is determined to finish her studies at BU and eventually return to New Zealand.

“Because of all of the care, love and prayers Meg has received since the accident on May 12, she is now on her way home with us to Boston. It was four weeks ago that we received the news that our daughter and her friends had been in a tragic car accident,” Todd and Deb Theriault said in a statement. “The lives of all of the families of this wonderful group of young students were turned upside down and we continue to support each other as we move forward.”