My heart goes out to the families and friends of three young Americans. They were part of a group of students who have been in Auckland since the beginning of the year on an exchange programme. Part of that experience was to explore New Zealand beyond the city. It was on one of these outings that the tragedy occurred, on one of New Zealand’s most beautiful highways near the fabled Mt Doom of Lord of the Rings fame. The real name of this mountain is Mt Ngauruhoe, one of three that give this area of New Zealand’s Central Volcanic plateau the qualities film makers value so highly.
The students were going to attempt the Tongario Crossing, an adventure that has significant challenges, but with proper planning, should not have presented any major problems. Unfortunately the tragedy was nearly made worse by the fact that five of the young people needed to be rescued from the freezing heights of the mountain, narrowly avoiding yet another disaster.
The vans travelling along the scenic road were involved in an accident that claimed the three lives and five other students were injured. We will look after your sons and daughters, America and we share the sadness with you. That you entrusted your young people to us and to have them end their lives here hangs heavily with us.
Young people will always seek adventure and push the boundaries, but this was something that no one could have controlled. At a time when the road toll is at its lowest since records began, the accident only compounds the sadness.
I am sure that New Zealand and Boston, the home of the university that sent us their young people, will become closer as a result of this sad news. I watched your candle-lit vigil on TV and my eyes filled with tears as I imagined the pain the parents, families and friends must be going through. All I can offer is my love. Life is so precious.