Exclusive: Asiana Survivors talk about ordeal

A Chinese couple who survived the Asiana crash at SFO shares their journey exclusively with ABC7 News Anchor Kristen Sze.
November 26, 2013 10:24:25 PM PST
A couple who survived the crash of Asiana Flight 214 have just flown home to China after a long ordeal. But before they left last week, they shared their story for the first time giving us a new glimpse of the agonizing aftermath that public has heard little about, until now.

They reached out to ABC7 News anchor Kristen Sze with this story you'll see only on ABC7.

Zhang Jing, 36, needs a wheelchair to get around. The immobility is torturous for the adventurous Shanghai native. The beautiful accountant and her bank employee husband, Yang Lin, 45, have no kids. Their love is traveling.

In July, they embarked on what was to be a dream vacation. This November they met me in Burlingame to tell for the first time their nightmare as Asiana Flight 214 crashed at San Francisco International Airport.

We did the interview in Mandarin and their answers have been translated.

We asked the couple where they were sitting and Jing said, "I was sitting in the 28th row."

"We suddenly crashed and I thought... today, I will probably die here. We impacted hard, everything shook and things fell down and all the lights went out," said Lin.

Re-living the moment is too painful for Jing. Her attorney Jim Brauchle, from Motley Rice Law, describes what happened. He said, "She remembers kind of sliding out from under her seat, her foot got wedged, the seats kind of collapsed."

Lin had no idea what happened to his wife. She was in a different row and he had lost his glasses, but he saw an overhead compartment had fallen onto a young lady. Lin said, "I took that panel off her, threw it on the ground, and shouted, 'Go, go, go!' The exit door I went out of did not have an emergency chute. I looked down and saw we were high up, but when you're trying to escape with your life, you don't think about that."

Lin jumped out of an exit door and he later took a picture of it. And though flames were now burning toward the middle of the plane, as you can see in the video Lin later shot, he stayed right there, helping others down until finally his wife emerged unable to walk. He carried her to safety. He took a picture after she was triaged for a gash in her head.

In Lin's pictures and video shot from the tarmac, you can see rescuers giving her aid, the chopper that flew her to a hospital and the many others who were injured.

"At first I thought I just twisted my ankle," said Jing.

But one painful week later, after transferring to Stanford, tests revealed Jing's ankle was fractured. Surgeons implanted screws, but then the pain in her head became excruciating. CT scans showed massive bleeding in her brain. Doctors rushed her into surgery, removing part of her skull to relieve the pressure.

"I couldn't bear to see her like that," said Lin.

For two-and-a-half months Jing had to wear helmet until doctors deemed it safe to put her skull back. They hope there's no permanent brain damage, though her head will always have a massive scar.

Today, more than four months after what happened on the runway, Jing is getting several hours of physical therapy and psychological counseling several times a week. She knows her road to recovery is a long one.

Jing and several other survivors have hired U.S. aviation law firm Motley Rice, hoping for a fair out-of-court settlement.

ABC7 reached out to Asiana. The airline did not comment on Jing in particular, but said in a statement, "Asiana has made every effort to take care of all of the passengers' needs since the accident at SFO. Asiana will continue to pay for the passengers' reasonable and necessary medical expenses and treatment."

Jing will continue her rehabilitation in China. She doesn't know when she'll be able to walk normally again or go back to work. But she said, "I'll never ride a plane again. I know I have to, to get home. After that, never again."

Though the couple's world-traveling days are over, they consider themselves lucky to have lived through the disaster and to have each other.

After flying home on sedatives, Jing and Lin happily reunited with family. They sent us a picture with the good news Jing is finally walking on crutches.

They asked us to thank the firefighters, paramedics, social workers, doctors and personal aides who helped them in the Bay Area. They say they'll always be grateful.


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