Asiana plane crash

Disbelief amid tributes for Asiana plane crash victims

At a memorial service, Jiangshan struggles to come to terms with the loss of three pupils

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 5:19pm

The overwhelming feeling was one of numbed disbelief as hundreds gathered yesterday for a memorial service for three Chinese teenagers killed in the Asiana Airlines plane crash in San Francisco last month.

Disbelief that the lives of such intelligent and popular girls were cut short in tragic circumstances.

More than 500 packed a funeral parlour in Jiangshan , Zhejiang , for a memorial service for Wang Linjia and Ye Mengyuan , both 16, and Liu Yipeng , 17.

The girls - who all attended Jiangshan High School - were the only fatalities among 307 on board when Asiana Airlines flight 214 crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6. Another 180 were injured, many of them seriously.

The girls were considered top pupils at their school and had flown to the United States for a summer holiday study tour.

"I can't contain my grief over the loss of my beloved daughter," sobbed Wang's father, Wang Wensheng . "Her schoolmates must feel so proud of her."

Chen Xiangting , a classmate of Wang's, said: "Wang and Ye had celebrity status in the school as they were excellent in both studies and extracurricular activities. They will be always remembered."

Chai Xiaoping , one of Ye's teachers, said: "Their deaths were a shock to us. The school will do its utmost to help students recover from the grief."

Chai said the school would assign teachers to help shocked pupils recover from the tragedy when the new term begins next month.

Although Wang would not comment on the issue of compensation, at least one Chinese lawyer and two law firms in the US are preparing for complex litigation.

The Jiangshan government is helping families to seek compensation from the airline and the San Francisco Fire Department.

In mid-July, an Asiana delegation went to Jiangshan to express their apologies to the school but provided no detailed proposal for compensation, said Hao Junbo , a Beijing-based lawyer retained by the local government to offer legal services.

"A key question is where to file the lawsuits," Hao said. "The compensation amounts differ a lot, based on different laws in China, the US and South Korea."

The most controversial case among the three fatalities is that of Ye, who was run over by a rescue vehicle after she was moved by two firefighters who believed she was dead.

The San Mateo county coroner later found there was internal haemorrhaging, indicating that Ye's heart was still beating at the time she was run over.

"It will be easier to decide where to file Ye's lawsuit because the families could almost certainly sue the San Francisco authorities," Hao said.

On July 23, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the rescue vehicle that ran over Ye was not equipped with heat-sensing equipment that might have detected her in its path.

Last week it emerged that the families of the three girls had retained New York law firm Kreindler & Kreindler, which specialises in aviation disasters, including the September 11 attacks in 2001 and the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

Partner Jim Kreindler said he would handle the girls' cases, as well as 12 injury cases involving US, Chinese and Korean residents.

Meanwhile, US officials are looking at whether some lawyers may have violated a US law that bars them from approaching air disaster victims in the first 45 days after an accident.

There is no barrier to clients approaching lawyers during this period.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it had received several complaints since the accident.

It had reported one firm, Chicago-based Ribbeck Law Chartered, to the Illinois agency that regulates lawyers for further investigation.

Ribbeck lawyer Monica Kelly said the firm obtained all its clients legally and ethically.

The firm was investigating the cause of the crash on behalf of 83 passengers, according to a filing in Illinois state court.

Additional reporting by Associated Press, Reuters