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N.J. Students Set To Travel To France Left Grounded After Travel Agency Shutters

Parent: Trip Was Supposed To Be 'Great Opportunity For All Our Children'

WESTWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Some northern New Jersey students may be out of thousands of dollars and a trip to Europe.

As WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reported Wednesday, 14 students at Westwood Junior/Senior High School were two weeks from a week-long trip to France when the travel agency they booked the trip with shut down.

“It’s very sad. We’re all very sorry. The school district employees set out with the best of intentions as did the parents and the students. We thought this was going to be a great opportunity for all our children,” parent Ann Eichorn told Putney. “They were going to be in another country, which is an opportunity that most of them had never had until now. So, that’s all taken from them and that’s very sad and no amount of insurance is going to give that experience back.”

Her 15-year-old daughter earned spending money for the nearly $3,700 trip by working at a day care center.

“Some of the parents had their children actually make the money to pay for a portion of the trip themselves,” said Eichorn.

“A lot of people were crying, like some people I never see cry were hysterical, and it was really sad to see,” 15-year-old Emma Pranschke told CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu.

Maria Fegeley said she did all she could to raise the money.

“Instead of a sweet 16 my parents said they’d help pay for the trip, so instead of like a party that’s what we did, and then my confirmation money went towards the trip, and I babysat a lot,” Fegeley said.

Travel agency Mariden USA, based in Alexandria, Va., went out of business without notice just two weeks before the students were set to travel to France. The school had used the agency in the past without issue.

There have been six complaints against the travel company since 2011. One was resolved favorably, with the consumer receiving a refund. Five other complaints are still pending, CBS 2’s Hsu reported.

No one at Mariden was available for comment.

Some parents, like Eichorn, paid a travel insurer, which is waiting to see if Mariden files for bankruptcy before any payouts are made.

“It’s not clear. Insurance policies tend to be written for the benefit of the insurance company and not for the insured,” Eichorn told Putney.

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs is assisting the victims, Putney reported.

“I just hope that we can get some resolution, possibly the insurance claim that’s our only hope at this point. We have no reason to hope otherwise,” parent Camille Fegeley said.

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