CINCINNATI — A Mariemont High School graduate was killed in a tour bus crash during a humanitarian mission trip to Honduras Wednesday, Mariemont school officials said.
20-year-old Olivia Erhardt, a student at Columbia University, was on the bus with roughly 30 American volunteers when it veered off the road and fell more than 260 feet into a ravine just east of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa.
Erhardt and the other students were volunteering for the U.S.-based Global Brigades, which organizes international health and development missions, Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger wrote in an email to students.
The bus was bringing the students back to the airport after their mission to help poor Hondurans.
"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," Bollinger said. "No endeavor more proudly exemplifies the traditions and values of our university."
In a statement, family members described Erhardt as an aspiring scientist who was loved by her family and friends:
“Our Olivia was a bright and beautiful young woman, an aspiring scientist with a love of physics, and interest in medicine and impressive command of Harry Potter trivia. She embraced the world around her, had tremendous curiosity and loved to explore and try new things. She felt science had an important role in society and belonged to Columbia’s Scientist and Engineers for a Better Society. She was also an accomplished creative writer and a staff member of the Four by Four student literary magazine.
“Olivia had the best friends anyone could ask for, teachers coaches and family friends who helped her become the wonderful person she was, and of course, a family that will miss her forever. Her loving extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins are devastated by her loss. We, her parents and sister, want to extend our heartfelt appreciation to all who have reached out, and ask for our privacy at this time.”
My thoughts are with the friends & family of Olivia Ehrhardt, Mariemont HS grad, Columbia Univ student and Univ of Cincinnati summer student
Erhardt graduated Mariemont High School in 2014. Principal Jim Renner said she was well-rounded National Merit Finalist and participated in a number of activities like volleyball and theater during her time there.
"She was a remarkable young woman," Renner said.
Luke Wiseman, a former teacher of Erhardt's, recalled how excited he was to have her as a student because she was "very hopeful, very honest, compassionate and an excellent student."
"She lived... a life that was admirable and honorable, and I can't imagine anyone not wanting to, in some small part, live up to that," Wiseman said.
Erhardt was one of three people who died in the crash, in addition to 21-year-old Daniella Moffson and 45-year-old Abigail Flanagan. Other students were also injured in the crash, according to Bollinger.
Fire officials are still working to determine the cause of the crash, firefighter spokesman Capt. Gustavo Barahon told the New York Daily News.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.