Two U.S. Students and Healthcare Volunteer Killed in Honduras Bu - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Two U.S. Students and Healthcare Volunteer Killed in Honduras Bus Crash

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Handout picture provided by the Honduras Firefighters Corps showing minutes after a vehicle accident in El Canton locality, Honduras, on 13 January 2016. Honduras Firefighters / HANDOUT / EPA Handout picture provided by the Honduras Firefighters Corps showing minutes after a vehicle accident in El Canton locality, Honduras, on 13 January 2016. Honduras Firefighters / HANDOUT / EPA
Olivia Erhardt, Credit: Facebook Olivia Erhardt, Credit: Facebook
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A bus crash in Honduras claimed the lives of three Americans who were in the Central American country on a volunteer mission to help the poor, authorities said.

The victims, two Columbia University students and a volunteer healthcare worker, were killed when their bus swerved off road, falling about 80 feet, and crashing into a gully, officials said.

Thirteen other Americans were injured, the Associated Press reported.

Grandparents Peter and Martha Erhardt identified their beloved 19-year-old granddaughter, Olivia Erhardt as one of the dead in the crash.

"It's a terrible tragedy. She was the light of our lives," Peter said of the sophomore and budding scientist.

"She was still making up her mind which science she was going into," he said.

They said Erhardt started at the university about a year and a half ago studying astrophysics but after a summer internship at a Cincinnati children's hospital, she became interested in lab tech work — following in her grandmother's footsteps.

"We loved her dearly, I still can't believe it happened," Martha said breaking into tears. "I'm still in a little bit of denial. I keep thinking it must be a mistake."

The group, part of a program Columbia University offers called Global Brigades, left the small town of San Juancito and was making their way to the airport to travel home when the accident occurred.

Firefighters' spokesman Capt. Gustavo Barahona told the AP the crash was believed to be the result of mechanical failure.

Global Brigades' website describes their mission as, "the world's largest student-led global health and sustainable development organization."

Columbia University released a statement about the crash:

"Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to all those affected by this tragedy.

"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," the university said.

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