Asiana survivors still coping with post traumatic stress

Updated: 2013-07-15 10:54

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily)

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Asiana survivors still coping with post traumatic stress

China's Deputy Consuls General to San Francisco Song Ru'an (fourth from right), Yi Xianrong (third from right) and Consulate's Education Counselor Xu Yongji (second from right) say goodbye to students from Zhejiang province at San Francisco International airport on Friday. Xinhua

An advisory panel of lawyers has been hired to develop a compensation plan for the Chinese students and teachers who were onboard Asiana Airlines 214, which crash-landed in San Francisco on last Saturday.

Jiang Dafu, a senior official with the government of Jiangshan, a city in China's eastern Zhejing province, said at press conference on Sunday that they had invited Chinese lawyers to consult and provided face to face meetings with the victims' families.

Psychologists have also been invited to the city to help students and parents who are suffering from post-traumatic stress after the accident, said Mao Zhuoxing, the chief of Jiangshan Educational Bureau on Sunday.

There were 307 people onboard when the plane crash-landed. By now, 141 Chinese passengers on the flight have been accounted for.

On Friday, the death toll of the Asiana Airlines crash increased to three after another Chinese girl was pronounced dead at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, where she had been in the intensive care unit since the accident, according to a hospital spokesman.

One of the two teenage Chinese girls killed at the scene of the accident was run over by a fire truck, but officials are still awaiting the results of an autopsy, which could take weeks, to find out if she was still alive when she was run over.

On Friday, 31 students and teachers from Zhejiang province boarded CA986 to fly back home from San Francisco. Another 35 students and teachers from China's Shanxi province left San Francisco by shuttle bus, continuing their planned tour in the US.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators have interviewed six of the flight attendants and hope to interview the remaining flight attendants when possible, as well as other survivors, to gather more information.

Brian Alexander, a lawyer with Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, told China Daily that injured passengers will be compensated for economic losses, property damage, medical expenses and potentially other non-economic damages.

"The amount of compensation for the Chinese passengers will depend upon a variety of legal factors and who is determined to be responsible for the crash," he said.

He said the airlines has hired one of the best aviation defense firms in California and he expects they will try to keep the foreign cases out of the US, where victims would have the benefit of the US' discovery process and jury system, which is known for awarding fair and just compensation.

"For this reason, we urge victims to avoid hiring counsel without doing some research to find the best US aviation firms," he said, adding that it was important for victims' families to retain US lawyers who have a complete understanding of the Montreal and Warsaw treaties that govern international flights and also a depth of experience and success in aviation product liability cases (particularly against Boeing) and who have significant experience litigating against the firms who represent the airlines, he said.

If there was an aircraft problem, it is a potential game changer for the Chinese families and will open the door to suits against the manufacturer Boeing and possibly other manufacturers, he said.

There is a suggestion that the auto throttle may not have worked as designed and questions about the airspeed warnings to the pilots, he said. These issues - and possibly other aircraft system issues - must be closely examined to determine if they caused or contributed to the crash.

"Significantly, the United States is clearly the best place to bring such claims since the crash occurred here, and the investigation, many witnesses and Boeing are all here in the US," he said.

"Chinese families should know the defense lawyers are already in San Francisco on the ground and that Asiana and Boeing will participate in the investigation, while families are not represented in the process," he said.

It is important to have a legal representative to monitor the NTSB and to begin an independent investigation and gather the facts, he added.

(China Daily USA 07/15/2013 page2)