Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has expressed her sympathy to the family of a student who died at a house party in Dunedin on Saturday night.

Ardern said the death of Sophia Crestani was an "extraordinary tragedy" and her thoughts were with the family and friends of the victim.

"First and foremost, what we need is clarity around what exactly has occurred, and I know the university will be as interested in that as we are," Ardern said.

"But for now, now is the time for those condolences and thoughts to be sent to the family of the young woman affected."


Meanwhile, Dunedin students are in "grief and shock" after the death of the 19-year-old.

Crestani, who died at a Dundas St flat over the weekend, was a second-year student, University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne confirmed.

Hayne said she had met with Crestani's parents today.

She acknowledged the strength and generosity in dealing with the tragic situation. The university's focus was on supporting its students, who had "incredible resilience", she said.

OUSA president James Heath said the student community was "in grief and in shock".

A drop-in centre in the main common room would open from tomorrow to help students, Heath said.

"Now is not the time to be pointing fingers or blame."

Hayne said the university was streamlining the process to help students who needed compassionate consideration for assessments.


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She had not spoken to the two other injured students but had been updated on their conditions. She understood they were "fine".

Heath said October 12 was the start of exams.

The two injured students had knee or leg injuries, Hayne understood. Both were residential students.

Those living at the Dundas St property were relocating and the university was assisting them to find alternative residence.

She could not comment on the future of the flat, which is leased by the university.

"Numerous" students had sought help, from chaplains, Student Health and other support services. But in her experience the most support they sought was from each other, Hayne said.

"As a parent myself I am sure there are a lot of parents who are concerned about what has happened here," Hayne said. But the incident was a "tragic accident" and it was too soon to say if there would be more monitoring of student accommodation in the wake of the student's death.

She asked for the family's privacy to be respected.

"These are people who are in the deep throes of grief."

Conflicting reports

There are conflicting reports about the numbers of people at the party at which Crestani died.

The incident is believed to have happpened when party-goers tried to leave Dundas St flat The Manor on Saturday night.

A Dundas St woman, who did not want to be named, said she was at the party from early evening, and was one of the last to leave at the end of the night.

While reports suggested up to 600 people had been at the flat, she said it was more like 200.

She said the party started out fairly quiet around 7pm.

At around 10.30pm, people were packed in "like sardines'' but they were having a good time, she said.

She said the party was trouble-free: "There hadn't been any scraps''.

Tenants tried to shut down party

Campus Watch had been at the scene for about an hour before the incident, she said.

"It was a shame the housemates had to be the ones to shut it down,'' she said.

The flat's tenants called police to help shut down the party and people started trying to leave when police arrived, the woman said.

"People started falling down the stairs onto one another. That's when the panic set in, people thinking 'I don't want to be the one on the floor'.

"I don't think a lot of people realised what happened.''

The woman said she saw Crestani fall on the stairs.

"It was awful. It was so totally packed, once you're under, you're under.''

She said her friends waited in a corner until they were able to get out. It took between 20-30 minutes for everyone to get out of the flat, she said.

One of the woman's friends was a close friend of Crestani.

"She was distraught on the floor.''

The woman hoped fingers would not be pointed over the tragedy.

"Every party in North Dunedin is always packed.

"It's a terrible thing that happened, but every party has injuries, this was just on a new scale.

"It's nobody's fault.''

The university had emailed students with information about where to get support, she said.

"The attitude of students has really shone through. They're looking after each other.''

- Otago Daily Times with NZ Herald