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Flags at half-staff as Columbia University mourns 3 killed in Honduras bus crash

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Tim Fleischer has the story.

Tuesday was a day of mourning at Columbia University to honor three students killed in a bus accident in Central America last week.

Flags flew at half-staff and a candlelight vigil was held to honor Abigail Flanagan, Daniella Moffson and Olivia Erhardt, who were killed when the bus careened down an embankment into a ravine in Honduras.

The bus, with about 30 passengers on board, were heading to the airport to return home from a volunteer mission.

Their dedication to helping others. The memory of their work. The lives of the three students were remembered in the special vigil.

"Our community has been diminished by their loss," said University Chaplain Jewelnel Davis.

Hundreds huddled against a biting cold filling a portion of Columbia's campus, coming together in the memory of the three students. Their family members also attending.

"Brave and caring individuals who were engaged in extending themselves in order to help others very much in need," said University President Lee Bollinger.

The three were leaving Honduras where they had spent their winter break helping the poor in the schools' Medical Brigade Program. Their bus veered off a steep cliff killing the students. Others were injured.

As they grieve for their friends and colleagues, Ben Swanson remembers Olivia Erhardt.

"Someone who is as excited about academics but also about everyday life. Someone who cared about their friends with the intensity I've never seen. Someone who so many of us loved very much," said Swanson.

Daniella Moffson. "Daniella is and will always be a role model to humankind. She did what was right and never wavered," said roommate Arielle Spievack.

And Abigail Flanagan. "She was courageous. Compassionate. Humble. And with a determined resolution. She touched the lives of those she came into contact with, leaving a lasting impression," said Marcia Robinson of the School of Nursing.

Sharing their light, they are remembered going forward.

"Honor their sacrifice and make their stories and their legacy now part of yours," said Bernard President Deborah Spar.

Moffson, a junior, was laid to rest late last week. Earhart was a sophomore, while 45-year-old Abigail Flanagan was a student and nurse practitioner at Columbia University Medical Center.

Moffson grew up on Manhattan's Upper East Side and before Columbia attended the Ramaz School, while Erhardt, originally from Cincinnati, was an accomplished athlete, creative writer and aspiring scientist.

"She embraced the world around her," teacher Luke Wiseman said. "Had tremendous curiosity and loved to explore and try new things."

And so did Flanagan, of Sparkill in Rockland County, where her sister-in-law spoke briefly.

"She was doing what she always does," Anne Flanagan said. "What's best for everybody."

She had a doctorate degree in nursing but had returned to school along with her 19-year-old son, Patrick, who was also on the trip and injured in the crash.

Courtesy: Bomberos de Honduras

"It's still very hard to comprehend that she's not here," friend Lisa Schachter said. "It's still a shock to all of us."

They were all members of a volunteer group working in Honduras as part of Columbia's chapter of Global Brigades, which provides medical support to poor and struggling people around the world.

Eight others suffered critical injuries, including Hannah Bender, from Scarsdale.
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