Witnesses said Sophia Crestani was trying to leave a crowded house party when she was crushed to death

By Rachel DeSantis
October 08, 2019 02:27 PM

A 19-year-old New Zealand college student was killed at a crowded house party on Saturday, with witnesses saying she was trampled in a mass exodus of people leaving the bash.

The University of Otago in Dunedin confirmed the death of second-year student Sophia Crestani, originally from Wellington, in a statement.

“The Proctor’s office is currently supporting the family of the student who died. We are also aware that many members of the student community are badly affected by what occurred or are supporting those who are,” vice-chancellor professor Harlene Hayne and president James Heath said.

“Our staff are working with students during this very difficult time. Our deepest sympathies are with all those affected. Police continue to investigate, and the University will work with them as required. At this time, the University’s primary focus is on supporting our student community and the family of the student concerned,” the statement continued.

Police received a call just before midnight on Saturday asking for help in breaking up a party at a house on Dundas Street, Otago Coastal Area commander inspector Marty Gray said in a news release.

When officers arrived, many partygoers — Gray estimated there were several hundred people in attendance – were already heading out of the large home reportedly known as “The Manor.”

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“In attempts to leave, a number of people have been injured, two seriously, and sadly one woman has passed away from her injuries,” Gray said.

A student who attended the party told the New Zealand Herald that several people tumbled down the stairs and landed on the woman as they all tried to leave the house.

“She fell and people were just trampling all over her without taking much notice,” the student said. “When I was coming down, people had started giving her CPR but she was gone pretty fast, unfortunately.”

Another partygoer compared the scene to a “human dog pile,” while a third said she herself was nearly crushed in her attempts to exit.

“I got pushed to the ground with two other girls I remember, and we were looking at each other screaming and crying, trying to get up,” the student told the Herald. “I kept repeating, ‘Please don’t let me die, I don’t want to die.’”

Gray confirmed to the outlet that Crestani was carried out of the house by other attendees, and that attempts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful.

Police have reportedly said “it’s too early to speculate” whether charges will be filed.

Area Prevention Manager Inspector Wil Black said in a news release Monday that police had finished investigating the scene, and had spoken to a number of students, but were still looking for help establishing a detailed timeline.

Crestani’s parents, Bede and Elspeth, released a statement through the university remembering their daughter, who studied mathematics and statistics and had an identical twin, according to the Otago Daily Times.

“You will appreciate that it is a very difficult time for us. We are grieving the loss of our beautiful daughter and so is the community which Sophia knew and cared for,” the statement read.