Nearly 200 students gathered for a candlelight vigil at a chapel on Boston University’s campus Saturday night, mourning the deaths of three of their classmates who were killed in New Zealand after the van they were riding in rolled over.
The students — Roch Jauberty, Daniela Lekhno, and Austin Brashears — were almost finished with a semester in New Zealand. They were killed as they traveled to a legendary volcanic site filmed for ‘‘The Lord of the Rings’’ movies. Five other students were also injured in the crash.
At the vigil, students stood in a circle around the steps of the chapel, holding candles that they lit by passing the flame person to person at the end of the service. They hugged and cried as administrators and students spoke of the importance of gathering as a community to heal.
Organizers set out blank sheets of paper for students to write messages to the friends they had lost, which will be sent to the victims’ families.
Members of a Boston University water polo team that Brashears played for stood in a tight circle and passed a water polo ball around for members to sign and send to his family. Carter Wheatley, 19, stood by himself at the edge of the circle, holding a candle. Brashears was the first person he had met when he came to BU last year, he said.
The end of the school year is usually a time of celebration, Wheatley said, but the tragedy had rocked the community. It was powerful to see how many people came out, he said.
“Healing in groups like this,” Wheatley said, “it really shows you’re not alone. It brings you all closer.”
As students dispersed, they left their candles at the base of the statue in the courtyard of the chapel. “We like to talk about ‘one BU,’ but it’s moments like this where we actually live it,” said Whitney.