Brashears' body returns home

The parents of Austin Brashears, the Huntington Beach resident who died this month in a New Zealand road accident, have returned home with his remains, a friend of the family said.

Debbie Kagawa, the longtime boss of Brashears' mother and one of the leaders of the Bring Austin Home fundraising campaign, said the Brashearses flew to New Zealand last week and returned over the weekend.

"Everything went according to plan, and they returned on Sunday," she said.

Bring Austin Home, which sought to raise funds to have his body repatriated, had raised more than $22,000 through PayPal by Tuesday, Kagawa said. She did not know how many donations had come in through other channels.

Over the last week, four Huntington Beach restaurants hosted fundraisers for the campaign: Hot Off the Grill on May 16, Cherry On Top on Friday, Bowl of Heaven on Saturday and Red Table on Monday.

A paddleout in Brashears' memory is set for sunset Friday on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier. Sage Russo, a high school friend of Brashears, advised participants to arrive at 7 p.m., with the paddleout expected to start about 8.

A memorial service is also scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 5402 Heil Ave., Huntington Beach. Both the paddleout and memorial are open to the public, Russo said.

"Anybody who knew and loved Austin is welcome to come celebrate his life with us," she said.

Brashears, who graduated from Marina High School in 2009 and was studying abroad with Boston University, died May 12 when the minivan he was riding in rolled over on the highway. He and a group of friends had set out to hike in an area of New Zealand where parts of the "Lord of the Rings" movies were filmed.

The New Zealand Herald reported Friday that the driver of the minivan, 20-year-old Boston University student Stephen Houseman, has been charged with careless driving. Two other passengers, one from New Jersey and one from France, also died in the accident.

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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