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Friends work to bring home body of student killed in New Zealand

May 15, 2012 | 11:59 am

Austin Brashears

Friends and family of a college student from Huntington Beach are desperately raising funds in an effort to fly his body back to the United States after he was killed in a car accident in New Zealand, where he was studying abroad.

Austin Brashears, who graduated from Marina High School and was studying at Boston University, was killed Saturday along with two others when their minivan rolled over on a New Zealand highway.

Brashears’ friends said they are unsure how much it will end up costing to have his body flown home, but have already collected about $7,000 in a PayPal account while a similar amount has been raised on a Facebook page dedicated to the college student. Any unused money, the family said on the Facebook page, will be used to set up a scholarship fund in Brashears’ name.

His Facebook page shows photos of him and his travel companions touring beaches and forests, dining outside their tent and mugging for the camera. Talking to friends by phone and Skype, he shared New Zealand lingo and laid out plans to attend a wedding in Oregon and serve as a resident advisor at the university dorm this fall.

"The memories we've all been sharing are just the most positive memories," said Sage Russo, a longtime friend. "Austin was one of the most incredible people I've ever known. He was so passionate about life and his friends and his family, and when he cared about something, he cared with his whole heart."

On the day he died, Brashears was headed to an area where scenes from the "Lord of the Rings" movies had been filmed. Brashears and his friends planned to hike through the region.

Debbie Kagawa, the chief financial officer of Capital Resources & Insurance,  where Brashears' mother has worked for more than 10 years, said she has received donations from places as far-flung as Germany and Singapore.

In some cases, she said, the funds came from people who knew Brashears or his family; others simply donated after they read the stories online.

Russo said she has no doubt the campaign will meet its goal.

"Regardless of how much it's going to cost or how much trouble we have to go through, we're going to bring Austin home," she said.


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-- Michael Miller, TCN

Photo: Austin Brashears, a college student from Huntington Beach, is seen in a photo provided by Debbie Kagawa.