05/15/2012 08:41 pm ET Updated May 17, 2012

Austin Brashears Dies In New Zealand Crash, OC Rallies To Bring His Body Home (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

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Huntington Beach, Calif. is mourning the loss of a beloved man who embraced life.

Austin Brashears was killed at only 21 years old Saturday in a horrific traffic accident in New Zealand. The crash also killed two other Boston University students and injured five more. Brashears, who graduated with straight A's from Marina High School in Huntington Beach, was studying abroad in New Zealand at the time.

"I haven't met or known anybody who would squeeze more life out of everything," said Austin's father, Thomas, on Saturday at the family's Huntington Beach home, where friends and relatives came to express condolences, the Orange County Register reports.

"I just wanted to see his smile one more time," said Thomas, fighting back tears and hugging his daughter, Nicole. "He's just a good kid. ... He loved life, he cherished adventure and nothing was more important than those he cared for."

It is clear from Brashears' Facebook profile and the photos below that he had many friends. Now, those friends are pulling together to raise money in an effort to fly their friend's body back to the US.

They have already collected about $7,000 in a PayPal account and a similar amount has been raised on a Facebook page called "Fundraising to Lay Our Austin to Rest." Any unused money, the family writes on the page, will be used to set up a scholarship in Austin's "honor to support other motivated students who share Austin’s love for club sports."

Cash and checks (made out to "McFadden Ward") can also be delivered to Jim and Chrysa Holdaway at 6832 Red Coach Dr., Huntington Beach, CA.

In response to the outpouring of support, the family wrote on the page:

We’d like to thank all of you for your love and support during this difficult time. We are truly grateful for everything that you have done. Austin always had a way of bringing people together; banding together like you all have is truly a fitting tribute.

The Brashears added memorial information:

In the tradition of the surf culture, a paddle-out will be held in Austin’s honor at 7:00pm on Friday, May 25th at Tower 2 at Huntington City Beach. All are welcome to bring a board, swim out, or participate from the shore.

Austin’s memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 26th at 11:00am at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at 5402 Heil Avenue, in Huntington Beach, California. A luncheon will be held immediately afterward, and all are encouraged to stay a while, enjoy some good food and share memories of Austin.

Brashears was an environmental engineering major, and his mother, Julie, said that he was having "the best time he ever had in his life" in New Zealand, the Boston Globe reports. "Everyone called him the cruise director," she said. "He wanted to include everybody on trips. He loved having an eclectic group of friends.”

"The memories we've all been sharing are just the most positive memories," a longtime friend, Sage Russo, told the Los Angeles Times. "Austin was one of the most incredible people I've ever known. He was so passionate about life and his friends and his family, and when he cared about something, he cared with his whole heart."

Photo credit: Austin Brashears' Facebook



Austin Brashears