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Turangi crash victim graduates with magna cum laude

A 24-year-old American woman, critically injured in a mini van accident near Turangi, New Zealand on 12 May 2012, graduated on Friday 15 May (US time) from Boston University with a business degree magna cum laude.

While there was a lot of pride at Meg Theriault’s achievements from friends and family in the US, there was also immense delight in New Zealand at Waikato Hospital where she spent more than five weeks recovering under the care of the hospital’s trauma team led by specialist Dr Grant Christey.

“It’s great to see Meg making her way in the world after such a devastating accident,” he said.

After Meg’s transfer by rescue helicopter to Waikato Hospital three years ago, she spent time in the hospital’s Critical Care and then recovered in a ward.

On 14 June 2012, she and her parents Todd and Deb Theriault flew out of Hamilton Airport on a medi-flight bound for Boston, Massachusetts where her treatment continued.

(See details below).

Parents acknowledge Waikato contribution to Meg’s recovery

9 March 2013

This is a letter to acknowledge and thank a very large number of individuals who came to help our family at a time of desperate need.

We are so fortunate that Meg’s story is one of amazing progress – told from Meg’s point of view. Because Meg does not have any recollection of New Zealand, her father and I would like to take this opportunity to note that it was the amazing care and support that Meg received in New Zealand that made this journey possible. It was such a tragic and sad event that occurred that day, and yet somehow all of the people and events that followed helped to keep our daughter alive.

Little did we know when we received the call from the American Embassy alerting us of the accident what had already started to unfold and what a long road it was that we re about to embark on.

New Zealand is a special place. It was only moments after the accident that Kevin and Michelle O’Brien (Angels) were driving back to their home.

In the middle of the road, in front of their house, they were met with the other students and the wreckage. We later discovered that Kevin is a retired ambulance driver who was able to assess the scene so that when the group of first responders arrived, time prioritising the care was saved. With the help of these wonderful people, Meg was flown to Waikato Hospital in Hamilton.

Todd and I had already been in contact with the hospital staff and when we arrived there, we were greeted by an amazing team. As overwhelming as it was to see Meg in the condition that she was in, it was such a relief to see her, to hold her, and know that she was still with us. Before our departure from Boston, we had emailed a picture of our family to the hospital and they had printed it out and taped it to the window next to Meg’s bed. Arriving in another country, we were unsure of what to expect and we cannot begin to tell you how impressed we were and how grateful we are that Meg was able to get the quality of care that you provided.

In the month that we were in New Zealand, so many people reached out to us to offer dinners, comfort, even a day away – it seems your Fieldays are known worldwide – we left the day that they were being set up to open. (Perhaps next time!) We have since learned that this generosity is just part of your nature – a kinder culture we cannot have imagined. We send our thanks to you and hope to be back with Meg and our son, Ben, in the future!

Love and appreciation,


Boston, US

After crash abroad, a student strives to recover

9 March 2013

Meg Theriault, the American student involved in a fatal car accident near Turangi last year, is continuing to progress back home in Boston.

Ben and Meg Theriault, 2012

Ben and Meg Theriault, 2012

According to her mother Deb she is very much enjoying her freedom – living in a University apartment which is close to the campus during the week. She is working diligently on her studies for the accounting class that she is auditing.

In a message to staff at Waikato Hospital Deb said:

“If we could have had the ability to add to the list of people to thank – you all would be at the very top of the list.  I wanted to let you know that we continue to be so thankful for all of the amazing care that Meg got at Waikato. We know how critical that initial care was. It played a huge part in getting Meg to where she is today.”

Meg Theriault and parents leave New Zealand

Thursday, 14 June 2012, 11:11 am

The 21-year-old American student involved in a fatal car accident last month near Turangi, flew out of Hamilton International Airport today on a medi-flight bound for Boston, Massachusetts.

Meg Theriault’s parents Todd and Deb made the decision not to talk directly to media or have their daughter interviewed or photographed out of respect for her wishes. Instead, they released a statement and a photograph.

They said they wanted to thank everyone in New Zealand.

“We are overwhelmed by the appreciation and kindness and I want to take this opportunity to say how fantastic the care at Waikato Hospital has been, it’s been great,” said Todd.

“We’re just overwhelmed by the appreciation and the kindness of all the people. Thank you. We’re on our way home, we will be back, we will be back – to show our appreciation again. Meg has a lot of people she needs to thank.”

Deb said her daughter would return to New Zealand once she finished her studies at Boston University.

“She will thank everyone in person and she will do that Tongariro Crossing. She’s a determined girl and as a family we’ll be here to support her,” she said.

Their statement follows:

“Because of all of the care, love and prayers Meg has received since the accident on May 12, she is now on her way home with us to Boston. It was four weeks ago that we received the news that our daughter and her friends had been in a tragic car accident. The lives of all of the families of this wonderful group of young students were turned upside down and we continue to support each other as we move forward.

“It has been a much different journey than what these adventurous students had originally planned. Our experiences have taught us to look at the world through very different eyes.

“We just cannot find the words to thank the staff at Waikato Hospital and the wonderful Kiwis that have made us feel so welcome here.

“There are too many special individuals to name. As we land in Boston, we will be back with Meg’s extended family and so many of her friends that have sent their love and prayers to her from the other side of the world.

“The journey will continue there, but we know in our hearts that Meg will work to heal and return to finish her studies at Boston University.

“Our entire family wants to express their appreciation to everyone on both sides of the world that have helped to bring Meg home.”


Patient update Meg Theriault

Thursday, 31 May 2012, 3:31 pm

Meg Theriault, the 21-year-old student in Waikato Hospital from the crash near Turangi on Saturday 12 May is awake and spoken her first words since the accident.

She has been transferred from the high dependency unit to a ward and is in a stable condition.

Parents Todd and Deb Theriault say their daughter continues to amaze them.

Earlier today when trauma nurse coordinator Jenny Dorrian asked Meg how she was doing, Meg said: “I want my mummy.” Another staff member said “Good morning” to Meg and she replied “Good morning” back and then went to sleep. Later in the day she told her father she loved him.

“This is so heartening,” said Deb. “I can’t thank the staff at Waikato Hospital enough. Thanks to all those people in the US who are supporting us, to those who have donated money for fundraising efforts and especially to all those people who have been praying for Meg.

“There is still a long journey ahead but today is one of those days we can look back on as being significant.”


Meg Theriault Update and Parents’ Statement

Friday, 18 May 2012, 2:54 pm

Meg Theriault, the 21-year-old student in Waikato Hospital’s intensive care unit from the crash near Turangi last week, remains in a critical condition but is breathing on her own.

Doctors this morning removed the breathing tube she had been on since her admission into ICU after surgery Sunday morning (13 May NZ time).

Parents Todd and Deb Theriault say their daughter is a fighter and her progress is heartening.

Austin Brashears, 21, Daniela Rosanna Lekhno, 20, and Roch Jauberty, 21 were all killed.  (The van’s driver pleaded guilty to three counts of careless driving causing death and four counts of careless driving causing injury. He was convicted and discharged, but disqualified from driving for six months and ordered to pay court fees. In 2013, the coroner found none of the van’s occupants were wearing their seatbelts).

Mr and Mrs Theriault said they met the driver’s parents.

“We feel their pain and he now has a journey of recovery much like our daughter does.

“We understand there needs to be a court process and we support it.

“But that could have been any one of our kids at the wheel. This was an accident – all our kids were pursuing their dream. Nobody was intentionally doing anything that would harm anyone,” they said.

Mrs Theriault said Meg’s accident and ongoing recovery was life-altering in so many ways.

 “There’s a reason we are here and we have full faith in the team at Waikato Hospital who have just been outstanding. I can’t talk highly enough about them. This public health system is nothing like what we’ve got in the US and when I explain it to my friends back home, they can’t believe it.

“We could not have fathomed how much support we would get, from everyone we encounter. You Kiwis are special people,” she said.



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