San Francisco plane crash and the death of two Chinese girls

Yesterday’s tragic plane crash in San Francisco is nearly dominant on China’s front pages today, and particularly highlighted is the death of two Zhejiang middle school students in the crash. According to China’s official Xinhua news agency, the two girls, Wang Linjia 王琳佳, 17, and Ye Mengyuan 叶梦圆, 16, both students at Jiangshan Middle School in Jiangshan 江山, Zhejiang, were traveling to America along with twenty-eight other first-year classmates to participate in their school’s summer English camp. According to foreign media, both girls appear to have been ejected from the tail of the Boeing 777 when Asiana flight 214 clipped the runway at San Francisco International Airport. One of the girls may even have survived the fall, only to be killed by a fire-truck racing to extinguish the burning aircraft.

Coverage of the crash on China’s front pages today is mostly uniform and short on details, but surprisingly, newspapers in Zhejiang – the home province of the two victims – didn’t have the plane crash prominent on their front pages, opting to run with the story of the suicide of an apparently drunk, sandal-wearing climber instead.

Much of the detailed information of the death of the two girls outlined above was absent from Chinese newspapers today. The gallery below illustrates the strikingly similar coverage of the incident across Chinese newspapers. Most reports contained only the total number and occupations of the Chinese travelers aboard the plane and a description of the crash itself. Front pages displayed only slight variations of the headline “Korean Airliner Crashes in San Francisco: Two Zhejiang Female Students Killed” (韩客机旧金山坠毁:两名浙江女生遇难), often above identical pictures.

Zhejiang media reacted to the death in a variety of ways. Jiangshan Online 江山在线, a news portal located in Wang Linjia and Ye Mengyuan’s hometown, provided a chronology of events in the city from the moment that the crash was announced. Details included a vigil at Jiangshan middle school as parents and other family members awaited news overnight, an enigmatic QQ status posted by a classmate – “Let’s not cry, everyone is together, we’ll be OK” (不哭好吗?大家都在一起。我们会好好的!) – as well as a city official’s reception of official confirmation of the deaths of Wang and Ye.

Surprisingly, the crash did not make it onto the front pages of several newspapers in Zhejiang. In Wenzhou 温州, the Wenzhou Metropolis Daily 温州都市报 and Wenzhou Business Daily 温州商报 both reported the death of an apparently drunk, sandal-wearing climber in Juxi 莒溪 Canyon on their front pages, relegating the news of the crash to a sidebar.

China’s netizens, however, were much more united and vocal in expressing their sympathy for the plane crash victims. Wang’s final post on Weibo, “go”, received 7,275 “likes” and 27,078 comments as of midday on Monday, with most commenters writing “一路走好”, the Chinese equivalent of “Rest in Peace”. The contents of Ye’s Weibo aroused considerable consternation for its readers: her final post eerily reads “444444”, the word “four” being a near-homophone for and often associated with the word “death” in Chinese, while a similar gloominess permeates other posts in the days leading up to her departure. However, most of the 20,411 comments on her final post, like those on Wang’s final post, simply read “一路走好”.

Links and Sources
San Francisco Chronicle : SF plane crash: Victim may have been run over
Jiangshan Online 江山在线: 江山中学学生在事故现场拍摄的照片
Wenzhou Metropolis Daily 温州都市报: 模拟穿越莒溪大峡谷找寻小温的蛛丝马迹
Wenzhou Business Daily 温州商报:一台州驴友坠落瀑布身亡
The Weibo Account of Wang Linjia: 王琳佳
The Weibo Account of Ye Mengyuan: 叶梦圆

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