As news of the deaths of two 16-year-old passengers trickled back to their hometowns in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, relatives and friends rocked with grief when their fears were confirmed.
The parents of Wang Linjia, a teenager who microblogged poetic thoughts and had a delicate touch in calligraphy, held each other and sobbed while her grandmother almost fainted, reported the Beijing Morning Post and other Chinese news outlets. Chinese reporters found Ye Mengyuan’s mother leaning on a bed for support, tears silently running down her face. Her father sat next to her silently, deaf to the words around him.
Linjia and Mengyuan were known to be a close duo. Friends and classmates have been posting memories of their smiles and laughter on Weibo, a microblogging site similar to Twitter. One photo of the two wearing matching sports jackets and forming a heart together with their arms has been re-posted across many Chinese-language websites.
The two were supposed to arrive Monday at West Valley Christian Church and School in the San Fernando Valley for a three-week American summer camp.
Linjia and Mengyuan, whose bodies were found a mile apart on the runway Saturday, were the sole fatalities of the dramatic crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport, although more than 180 other people were taken to hospitals after the incident. At least two of those were paralyzed with spinal injuries, and eight remained in critical condition Sunday, hospital officials said.
The Chinese consulate in San Francisco has been releasing the names of the 141 Chinese citizens on board the flight in small batches as the passengers are confirmed safe. Chinese news outlets and friends and family back in China have been anxiously checking these alerts for good news.
The parents of Lingjia and Mengyuan are flying in from Shanghai, along with six Chinese government officials and a dozen relatives of Chinese passengers, officials said.
Airlines officials also said Monday that several international passengers who were aboard the Asiana Airlines flight are on their way home.
Two Koreans flew home Sunday, four are expected to leave Monday and four more on Wednesday, according to a Monday update from Asiana Airlines.
The company said it will also fly in from Shanghai the Chinese government officials and relatives of Chinese passengers.
According to recordings on the plane’s flight recorder, a crew member requested to abort the plane’s landing and go around for another pass less than two seconds before it crashed at San Francisco International Airport.
Asked at a Sunday news conference about the role of pilot error in the crash, Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the NTSB, stressed that the investigation into Saturday’s tragedy would probably take more than a year and that “everything is on the table right now. It is too early to rule anything out.”