HONG KONG (CNN) — The two teen girls were close friends, each looking forward to a summer trip to California to improve their English.
Ye Mengyuan excelled at the piano, just as she did in her academics. Wang Linjia enjoyed calligraphy and, according to local media reports, her work at the school’s TV and radio stations.
Classmates since junior high, the girls often ate lunch with each other at school, and few were surprised that they chose to sit together on the 10-hour flight that led to their deaths Saturday.
Asiana Airlines Flight 214 had started in Shanghai, China, where the two girls boarded. Then, with a stop in Seoul, South Korea, the flight headed for San Francisco.
The Boeing 777 was seconds from landing Saturday when its rear end struck the edge of the runway at San Francisco International Airport, sending it spinning and erupting in flames.
When medics arrived, they found the bodies of the two girls on the runway, next to the burning wreckage.
Tragic still, one of them may have been struck by a first responder’s vehicle, authorities
“Our examination will determine whether (the death) was from the airplane crash or secondary incident,” San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said.
Remarkably, 305 people survived the crash.
Ye and Wang were the only two who didn’t.
Headed to camp
The pair, along with 28 classmates and four teachers, were headed to a summer church camp held by the West Valley Christian School near Los Angeles. The camp is aimed at helping foreign students improve their English skills.
Study tours are increasingly popular for Chinese families that can afford them. Another
group of students and teachers from Taiyuan in Shanxi province were also on the flight.
The tours usually last around two to three weeks and cost around $5,000, with the East and West Coasts of the United States the most popular destinations.
West Valley school said on its website that the girls and their group had been due to arrive Tuesday for three weeks.
“Now, we are unsure what their next steps will be … but we are certain that God knows and will help us care for them in this time of crisis,” the school said.
The girls would have studied language, arts and culture during their stay.
Ye was also looking forward to visiting college campuses, Chinese media said.
A picture in Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper showed two grinning, bespectacled girls wearing red-and-yellow tracksuits and making a heart shape with their arms.
A school in mourning
Back home in Quzhou in eastern China, Jiangshan Middle School mourned the death of two of their own.
Wang’s teacher told the Beijing Morning Post that Wang was hard-working and inquisitive.
“She was attentive and responsible — and communicated with other students when there were problems,” the teacher said. “That’s why she was elected class leader three years in a row.”
Her classmate, Lu Hao, told the newspaper Wang was always smiling.
“She was tall and skinny — and very nice to others,” Lu said.
A keen painter and calligrapher, Wang produced artwork that was said to hang on the wall of her father’s office.
Ye’s mother told the paper her daughter had won the school’s annual speech contest. Her music teacher said she possessed a special skill at singing and playing the piano.
Ye’s and Wang’s parents left for San Francisco on Monday to bring the bodies of their beloved girls home, the school’s principal said.
CNN’s Steven Jiang in Beijing, Dan Simon in San Francisco, and Jackie Castillo in Atlanta contributed to this report.
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