BEIJING — News of Saturday's crash of Asiana Flight 214 at the San Francisco International Airport was the top story in China on Monday, with details on the two Chinese schoolmates killed in the crash and questions about the causes of the wreck.
Ye Mengyuan, 16, and Wang Linjia, 17, had boarded on the plane in Shanghai as part of a group of 34 students and teachers from a high school in Zhejiang province. They were heading to a summer camp organized by the school to visit universities in the United States, Chinese media reported.
The two schoolmates were sitting near the tail section of the plane that broke off, and their bodies were found outside the plane wreckage.
Exact circumstances of deaths remain unclear
The exact circumstances of their deaths are still under investigation. U.S. media reported that an autopsy was scheduled for Monday to determine whether one of the two victims died as a result of the plane crash, or was run over by rescue vehicles as they approached the scene.
When asked whether the Chinese government would request an investigation on the circumstances of the teenagers' death, the spokeswoman from China's Foreign Ministry said that her office was still trying to verify the situation, but added that China's President Xi Jinping was deeply concerned about the casualties.
“In compliance with Xi Jinping's directives, the Foreign Ministry as well as diplomatic missions in the United States and in South Korea will provide assistance, arrange placement and deal with the aftermath of the accident,” said Hua Chunying.
Many students looking to study abroad
The Beijing News described Ye as a “multi-talented” student. She was the school representative for English language class and Physical Education, she excelled at playing piano as well as dancing Latin music.
Local media reported that Wang had been class monitor for three years, and she was active in her school's radio and television station.
In recent years, an increasing number of Chinese students have chosen to go abroad for higher education. American schools are among the most popular destinations for many who are eager to avoid the “gaokao,” the very rigorous test for access to Chinese Universities.
Local news reports said that the group from Zhejiang's Jiangshan High School planned to visit Silicon Valley, Stanford University and University of California's campuses in Los Angeles and Berkeley.
Instructor Yu Yinfeng has been helping Chinese students prepare for universities abroad for six years. He says that summer courses and university scouting has become a very common occurrence for students interested in applying to universities outside of China.
“More and more students are trying to attend some summer schools, or some courses during the summer,” he says, “At the same time they do it also for school trip, they can attend the universities they'd like to apply to.”
It is unclear whether Ye and Wang planned on applying to school in the United States, but Yu says that based on the reports on their many academic achievements the two are representative of the kinds of students who pursue academic study abroad.
Authorities in the United States announced that they have begun a full investigation into the crash, which happened as the aircraft was landing at San Francisco International Airport.
So far there is no indication of mechanical failure. Eye witnesses said that the plane was flying at an unusually low altitude and that it tilted unnaturally just before the crash.
Choi Jung-ho, head of South Korean's Transport Ministry's aviation policy bureau, said on Monday that the flight's co-pilot - Lee Kang Kuk - was transitioning from flying other types of Boeing and had 43 hours' experience flying Boeing 777.
Online, most messages in China about the accident mourned the death of the two teenagers, but many users expressed anger, suggesting that the co-pilot was under qualified for the job.
“To have a pilot in training fly a plane is like having a doctor in training do a surgery,” one user called Goodbye_Lullaby2010 wrote on her microblog account. “They just play with people's lives.”
Asiana Airlines, which operated the flight, is the second largest carrier in South Korea. Its CEO, Yoon Young-doo apologized to the families on Sunday.
The plane carried 291 passengers and 16 crew members. A total of 182 people were injured, dozens of them were in serious conditions.