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Body of O.C. college student killed in New Zealand returned home

May 23, 2012 |  5:15 pm

The parents of Austin Brashears, the Huntington Beach resident who died this month in a New Zealand road accident, have returned home with his remains, a family friend said.

Debbie Kagawa, an organizer of the Bring Austin Home fundraising campaign, said Brashears' parents flew to New Zealand last week and returned over the weekend with his body.

Bring Austin Home, which sought to raise funds to have his body repatriated, raised more than $22,000 through Tuesday, Kagawa said. She did not know how many donations had come in through other channels.

Over the last week, four Huntington Beach restaurants hosted fundraisers for the campaign and a paddle-out in Brashears' memory is set for sunset Friday on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier. A memorial service is scheduled Saturday.

Both the paddle-out and memorial are open to the public.

"Anybody who knew and loved Austin is welcome to come celebrate his life with us," said Sage Russo, a childhood friend.

Brashears was studying abroad with Boston University when he was killed May 12 when the minivan he was riding in rolled over on the highway. He and a group of friends had set out to hike in an area of New Zealand where parts of the "Lord of the Rings" movies were filmed.

The New Zealand Herald reported that the driver of the minivan, 20-year-old Boston University student Stephen Houseman, has been charged with careless driving. Two other passengers, one from New Jersey and one from France, also died in the accident.

-- Michael Miller, TCN

Photo: Austin Brashears. Credit: Courtesy Debbie Kagawa.