By HAIDEE V. EUGENIO and FERDIE DE LA TORRE
The youngest plane crash survivor went back to China with her relatives yesterday morning, while her mother—one of the three adult survivors—is also expected to go back home as early as today, barely days after the worst commercial aviation incident in the CNMI since at least the early ‘90s.
“I feel sad for the family. The child lost her father, and her mother got injured too. The woman lost her husband. I keep praying for everyone,” Chinese Association of the CNMI director and former president Rose Chen told Saipan Tribune yesterday.
Chen visits and reaches out to the Star Marianas plane crash survivors every day at the Commonwealth Health Center.
“I try to help them any way I can, show them there’s support from the community here,” Chen added.
Esther Muña, interim chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., separately confirmed last night that the child survivor left the CNMI and the mother is in stable condition.
That was three days after the child was discharged from the hospital.
One of the adult survivors is scheduled for orthopedic surgery today, while the other adult is also in stable condition.
The four survivors are all Chinese tourists.
Three others died in the early Sunday morning plane crash on Tinian. One is the Mexican-born pilot and the other two are Chinese tourists—a 26-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man.
The Chinese government sent its consular officers from California to the CNMI upon learning of the crash.
Yu Xiong, consul from the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles, and vice consul Hongming Wang arrived in the CNMI on Tuesday.
Yu expressed appreciation to local and federal emergency response personnel, medical personnel, other agencies, private citizens, and groups that helped in any way in the rescue and recovery of the victims.
Meanwhile, CNMI special assistant for Homeland Security and Emergency Management Marvin Seman told reporters yesterday that the plane crash site on Tinian had been “turned over to Star Marianas early evening on Wednesday.”
“The federal agencies are done with the site investigation,” Seman said, referring to the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation and Safety Board.
This is the second Star Marianas plane crash in 11 months. The first one was on Nov. 19, 2012, that claimed the life of a female Chinese national.
Sunday’s Star Marianas plane crash was also the third and worst mishap three days in a row; the first was on Friday afternoon when a smaller plane made an emergency landing on Broadway Avenue past the Tinian airport, followed by another one on Saturday when a plane fell into a concrete-lined drainage.
The Department of Public Safety’s role in the aftermath of the crash was mainly to help in the rescue and recovery of the victims, according to DPS Commissioner James C. Deleon Guerrero yesterday.
He said that DPS personnel worked from the very beginning in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard to locate the plane.
The other part of their role, he said, was to assist the Federal Bureau of Investigation in its investigation. As soon as FBI agents arrived at the crash site on Tinian, the FBI assumed jurisdiction over the case, he added.
“We assisted them whenever, whatever we can. We always have a good relationship with the FBI,” he said.
Whatever the result of the investigation becomes federal jurisdiction, he said.
Since there is no local presence of the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board in the CNMI, he said the FBI filled in the role of investigators until the FAA investigator arrived.
Deleon Guerrero said that DPS still gives assistance even after federal investigators assume jurisdiction. “We assist them in guarding the crash scene, making sure nobody goes in tampering evidence, things like that,” he said.
He recalled that when the crash happened, the Commonwealth Ports Authority notified the Emergency Operations Center, which then called DPS to assist.
Deleon Guerrero said the preliminary information they received suggested that the plane was possibly in the water.
He said the Saipan DPS Boating Safety Section rescue boat was activated and responded to assist the Tinian Boating Safety.
The ill-fated Star Marianas Piper Cherokee Six aircraft was flying to Saipan when it crashed early Sunday morning in a jungle on Tinian.