Jan

13

Breaking: Fatal Accident On Columbia Medical Brigades Trip In Honduras

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An accident occurred earlier today in Honduras involving students on the Columbia Medical Brigade trip. A passenger bus carrying 30 students and adult volunteers to the Toncontín International Airport drove off a Honduras highway into a ravine. All of the passengers were affiliated with the Columbia Medical Brigade. Three passengers are confirmed dead and eight are in critical condition.

The university has yet to release an official statement about the accident. We have contacted the university for comment and will update this post with any further information we receive.

We offer our condolences to all of those who have been affected by the accident. Students in need of support are encouraged to contact Counseling and Psychological Services at (212) 854-2878.

Update, 8:01pm: Columbia has released an official statement on the accident. You can read it below:

We are deeply saddened to report that earlier today a bus carrying a group of Columbia and Barnard students was involved in a serious accident while traveling in Honduras on a volunteer mission organized by the humanitarian, non-profit group Global Brigades. Three fatalities have been reported and the families have been notified. We are in the process of determining the full extent of the injuries sustained by the bus passengers and contacting families of our students. Columbia medical and support personnel are traveling to Honduras overnight to provide additional on-site assistance. Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by this tragic loss. We will provide further information to the university community as it becomes available.

Edit, 9:15pm: Due to inaccuracies, an article with a list of reportedly injured students has been removed from the post.

Update, 11:10pm: President Lee Bollinger has released a statement naming those who died in the accident. You can read it below:

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community: I am very sorry to report that, earlier today, three members of the Columbia community died in a bus accident in Honduras. Columbia College student Olivia Erhardt and Barnard College student Daniella Moffson lost their lives while volunteering for the Columbia chapter of Global Brigades, an organization providing medical and other support to struggling populations around the world. Also lost in the accident was Abigail Flanagan, a nurse practitioner at Columbia University Medical Center and a General Studies student, who was a member of this humanitarian effort. This terrible and tragic loss is all the greater because these individuals were dedicating their passion and very special talents to serving those in need. No endeavor more proudly exemplifies the traditions and values of our University.

Other Columbia students were injured in the bus accident. We are working to ensure that they are receiving all necessary medical attention. Dr. Samuel Seward, Medical Director for Health Services, and other Columbia support personnel are on their way now to Honduras. The students who were not badly injured and who are able to return to the United States are in the process of doing so. We have contacted the families of all involved and are closely monitoring the situation to render all the help we can.

We are all deeply affected by this tragic event. Counselors and specialists on the Columbia Morningside, Barnard, and Columbia University Medical Center campuses, as well as pastoral counseling through the Office of the University Chaplain, are available. International students also can seek support or referrals through the International Students and Scholars Office. Please take advantage of these services.

Our thoughts are especially with the students and their families who have suffered as a result of this accident.

Sincerely,

Lee C. Bollinger

Update, 11:16pm: President Spar has also released a statement on the accident. You can read it below:

Dear Members of the Barnard Community,

It is with deep sadness that we write to share tragic news. We are heartbroken to report that Daniella Moffson ’17, along with Olivia Erhardt CC’18 and Abigail Flanagan, a nurse practitioner at the Columbia University Medical Center and a General Studies student, was killed in a bus accident today in Honduras. They were traveling with 25 other Barnard and Columbia students as part of a trip sponsored by Global Brigades, a non-profit, student-led organization of volunteers dedicated to improving under-resourced communities around the world.

Four other Barnard students were on the trip, and we are relieved to report that they are safe and expected home soon. We know that a number of the other students were injured, and our colleagues at Columbia are in the process of determining the full extent of the injuries sustained by their students. Columbia medical and support personnel are traveling to Honduras overnight to provide additional on-site assistance.

We know that this news is extraordinarily upsetting. During this difficult time, if you need support or counseling, please know that staff members in the Furman Counseling Center (barnard.edu/counsel, 212-854-2092), Dean of Studies office (barnard.edu/dos, 212-854-2024) and Human Resources (barnard.edu/hr, 212-854-2551) stand ready to assist students, faculty, and staff.

We will provide further information to the community as it becomes available. For now, we join with all members of our community in mourning Daniella, Olivia, and Abigail, and send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, and colleagues.

Respectfully,
President Debora Spar
Dean Avis Hinkson

Update, 1/14: The four undergraduate deans have released a statement on yesterday’s accident. The statement also includes information regarding a candlelight vigil to be held in memory of the three victims on the first day of classes. Read below:

Dear Students,

As you read in President Bollinger’s and President Spar’s emails on Wednesday evening, Columbia College student Olivia Erhardt and Barnard College student Daniella Moffson died yesterday in a tragic bus accident in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, while on a volunteer mission organized by the humanitarian group Global Brigades. Abigail Flanagan, a General Studies student and nurse practitioner at CUMC, and the mother of Columbia College student Patrick Flanagan, was also killed.

This service trip involved students from all four of the undergraduate schools. Many of the students are still in Honduras. Columbia staff members have arrived in Tegucigalpa to provide on-the-ground support to students, and we are working collectively to ensure their safe return home.

We are all saddened by this tragedy, and we encourage you to rely on one another and your families and friends, as well as school and University offices for support. Please know that your advisers and deans, the staff at Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) and Furman Counseling Center, and members of the Office of the University Chaplain, are all available to provide you with any support you may need in dealing with this tragedy. We have listed their contact information for you below.

The University will hold a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. Tuesday, January 19, on Low Plaza, for the Columbia community to reflect and to remember Olivia, Daniella and Abigail. The University will also fly flags at half-staff that day in recognition of this great loss to our community.

The Lerner Piano Lounge will be available as a place for students to come together on Saturday, January 16, and Monday, January 18, between 2 and 4 p.m. Later in the semester, we will work with families and friends to plan additional memorial services.

Our deepest condolences go out to all who knew Olivia, Daniella and Abigail. They will be in our thoughts in the days and weeks ahead.

Peter J. Awn
Dean
School of General Studies

Mary C. Boyce
Dean of The Fu Foundation School
of Engineering and Applied Science

Avis E. Hinkson
Dean of the College
Barnard College

James J. Valentini
Dean of Columbia College and
Vice President for Undergraduate Education

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5 Comments

  1. CC' 15

    Unbelievable. Rest in peace

  2. Never forget.

    This is such a terrible tragedy; I am shocked and speechless. I am praying for the families who have been met with this horrific tragedy. My deepest condolences.

    Rest in peace.

  3. Shocked

    I'm still in denial. Part of me still thinks this has to be a mistake. I feel completely numb - what a senseless tragedy. Rest in peace.

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