Profile: Victims and survivors in China’s deadly bullet train crash
July 25, 2011Jing GaoNo Commentsbullet train, China railway high speed, cover-up, governance, Ministry of Railways, rescue effort, traffic accident, train collision, Wenzhou, Wenzhou train crash, Yao Chen
The bullet train collision claimed at least 38 innocent lives and injured 200 more, which left all their families and friends in ever-lasting grief and harrowing nightmares. (Read coverage by Ministry of Tofu of the train crash.)
Xiang Weiyi (Yiyi), a 2-year-and-eight-month-old girl, was orphaned immediately after the accident. She could have been killed as well by the government who made a cold-blooded decision that has no regard or respect for human life – announcing hastily that no living person was there and burying the wrecked train coaches right on site. When she was accidentally found and pulled out by workers who were operating backhoes to inter the remains, her breath as thin as a thread. She was the last survivor
She finally opened her little eyes Monday morning in hospital. However, she had no clue that both her mother and father had passed away in the accident. She has to from now on grow without parental love. She may also become disabled for the rest of her life: her left leg may have to be amputated.
Yiyi’s father, Xiang Yu’an, was born in 1980. He taught Chinese literature in Wenzhou’s Renyansong Middle School. Yiyi’s mother Shi Lihong was a teacher at a polytechnic college. On May 27, she opened an account on Sina Weibo, a microblogging service, and dedicated her microblog to Yiyi, their treasure, as you can tell from the blog’s name, “Memoirs of Yiyi’s growth.”
On July 15, the family of three went on vacation from Wenzhou to Hangzhou, where Yiyi’s maternal grandparents live. Yiyi’s mother happily blogged, “It’s Yiyi’s first trip to Hangzhou by bullet train. Let’s memorize it. ”
July 23 was their return day. At 19:17, 80 minutes prior to the train crash, the mother wrote on the blog, “Little people with big tantrum. Little baby, when can you grow up and become sensible?” It is the last post by the mother.
When Yiyi was half-asleep in a nurse’s arms as the youngest and the last found survivor, she mistook the nurse for her mother, and murmured, “Where are you, Mommy? I thought you would no longer want me.” Everyone at her bedside cried, according to the microblog of Zhang Bin, a reporter. .
What happened to Yang Feng, a young man from Zhaoqing, southern Guangdong province, would be a heart-rending experience for anyone on earth. Four of his family members, including his wife, seven-month pregnant with a baby boy, were killed. His last conversation with his wife was at around 8:10 p.m. over the phone.
Yang Feng erupted in rage at the reception center for victims’ families when faced with a cohort of reporters.
“I am now very coolheaded. The accident has already taken place, and none of us has a way (to undo it.) But as a family member, I need our government to give me an explanation. More than thirty hours have passed. Then the government finally told us the bodies were found. What were you doing?
“My wife was right down there. Why didn’t you rescue her?” “You guys can go onto the high speed railway line and check if there is any rubbish left. Even the rubbish is gone, why bodies weren’t given to us until thirty hours later?
“He said there was no vital sign inside (the carriage). They did detect, and found nothing. If you (had acted) ten hours sooner, there would have been three, four or five living people.”
According to Yang Jiang, a reporter with Xinmin Weekly, later in the day, dressed in sackcloth as a traditional Chinese way of mourning, Yang Feng invited a government official over to see his families’ dead bodies, which have been brutally mutilated by the backhoes that were used by the government to bury train wrecks amid accusations of destroying evidence and giving up on rescue effort too early. The official (the one in dark blue T-shirt in the picture on the left below) allegedly backed off and said, “Let me make a bow. Sorry.”
Pan Yiheng, a veteran train operator, has been at the wheel for 18 years without making even one single small error. On the night of the train crash when he was operating bullet train D3115, the second one that later rear-ended the first one, when rescuers dragged Pan’s body from the distorted driving compartment, his chest had been pierced through by the brake handle, according to a news release by the Ministry of Railways.
Rumor, concocted either by the state or by netizens, said that the crash should be blamed on him, as he was sleepy while driving and consequently did not react quickly enough to the emergency ahead of him.
Chinese actress Yao Chen, who has the largest internet fan base in the world, trumping Oprah Winfrey with 9.9 million fans (analogous to “followers” on Twitter), was indignant with the rumor and stepped in on her microblog and wrote, “Pan Yiheng was a friend of my father. He was a straight arrow and a hard-working, responsible person. If last night he had fled without pulling the brake, the death toll would have been more than ten times higher. It is a shame that his body is still warm, and he is suspected of driver fatigue. Totally bullshit!”
The post was shared by more than 261,000 users. Later, the ministry confirmed that Pan had activated the emergency brake before he died, which prevented a worse outcome.
Lu Haitian was a sophomore at China Media University in Beijing. His heartbeat stopped on one day in the 20th year since he was born.
On his Renren (a Chinese copycat of Facebook)profile, Lu Haitian’s interests include tennis, basketball, Michael Schumacher, Los Angeles Lakers, Manchester United and the FOX TV show Lie To Me, among others.
As a broadcast engineering major, Lu Haitian planned to take an internship at a television station in the city of Wenzhou. His Renren status at first was, “I booked the (train) ticket. The social advance is great,” quite an irony. Later netizens commented on his status, “For your second life, do not be born in this ‘advanced society’.” On the morning of July 22, he told his classmates, he told his classmates, in order to arrive in Wenzhou sooner, he changed his train ticket from the original regular speed train to the bullet train.
Friends of Lu Haitian at China Media University made a video to commemorate him.
Lu Haitian then wrote a fateful message, which is the last word the world heard from him, in the status, “The second-class (Economy class) seat is changed from a soft sleeper. Funny.”
On the evening of July 22, Lu Haitian had a dinner with his roommate. He spoke glowingly of his future plan. He was not content with the double major. He wanted to go to a graduate school, and encouraged his roommate to work hard together with him.
According to his classmates, Lu Haitian hated angry youth the most. Angry youth, in most context, refers to young people who openly and passionately express their discontent with Chinese society and seek reform. “He never said a bad word about the government,” a friend of his was quoted by Forbes Magazine’s official microblog as saying. Forbes commented, in Chinese, “Hope the government he trusted would give him an explanation.”
There are more families that have fallen apart once and for all. The following pictures were taken outside the morgue where families of the victim identified bodies. (More pictures at QQ.com.)
On the evening of July 25, thousands of residents in Wenzhou, the city close to the locality, flocked to the city’s Century Square, and held an unofficial candlelight memorial service of their own accord.