First responders of Asiana crash at SFO honored

July 31, 2013 6:47:26 PM PDT
A memorial service took place in China Wednesday for the three teenage girls killed in the crash of Asiana Flight 214. Two 16-year olds, Wang Lin Jia and Ye Meng Yuan, and 15-year old Liu YiPeng died in the July 6 accident.

Relatives recently took the girls' ashes home. Their parents put those ashes on the altar in front of each girl's picture. Friends also placed some of the girls' favorite foods and drinks at the altar.

In the meantime, in the Bay Area, there was a tribute Wednesday for the first responders who jumped into action after the crash, an appreciation luncheon sponsored by the Korean Consulate General.

People that spoke with ABC7 News Wednesday said they have received pats on the back and individual thank yous for a job well done, but this was the first time for special recognition. It began with a moment of silence for the Asiana victims then the Korean Consul General stepped forward to offer thanks.

"Your heroism, valor, sacrifice, emotion, and dedication will remain forever in the hearts of the Korean people," Han Dong-Man said.

For those at the appreciation luncheon, the July 6 crash will never be forgotten. Police Officer Jim Cunningham rushed into the burning plane with no protective gear. Now, he sees the wreckage every day when he arrives for work at SFO.

"It's kind of scary when you see it now, inside's all burned out, you can see how much damage there was to the airplane, but you didn't really think about it when it happened. You were just busy getting people out of the airplane," he recalled.

The Salvation Army was honored at the luncheon for providing translators that day and beyond. "Not many people can talk to them and comfort them and so, I'm very proud of what we have done for those victims," said Salvation Army Capt. David Oh.

Of the 307 passengers, 304 survived. One of the three teenage victims was killed when she was run over by a fire rig. "Certainly, that remains on our mind. It's on my mind. I'm distracted by it in some ways," said San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White. "I'm trying to keep the troops very much supported because it's difficult getting that news. But to this day, I remain very proud of everyone's effort that day."

So does the Korean Consul General. "You were able to prevent a heavy loss of life due to your first report and close coordination with each other," he told attendees.

The luncheon was sponsored by Asiana Airlines, but the owner of the Sears Fine Food restaurant says he will take that money and donate it to the Chinese high school many of the crash victims attended.


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