Tributes from friends, relatives of China Eastern crash victims

Zhou Anna
Friends and relatives of China Eastern Airlines Flight MU5735 crash victims share their stories and memories of the deceased.
Zhou Anna

Editor's note:

According to media reports on March 28, all the 132 victims on board the China Eastern Airlines Flight MU5735 have been identified. The following are stories of some of the victims as told by their friends and relatives in a report first published in The Paper.

Tributes from friends, relatives of China Eastern crash victims

A mourning activity was held on March 27 at the crash site in Tengxian County, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

1."We had already decided to register our marriage next year."

Victim: Lin Heru (pseudonym), 36 years old

Narrator: Victim's fiance

Dates of narration: March 22 - March 23

My fiance is from Yunnan Province, and I am from Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Six years ago, I worked as a chef in Shanwei, in Guangdong. She came there to look for a friend and ultimately decided to stay. Both of us were in our thirties when we met, and I expressed my love to her.

We later went to her hometown and opened a restaurant in Lianghe County, Dehong Prefecture, but the business failed due to the pandemic. In 2021, we returned to Guangzhou in Guangdong and settled there.

We had planned to marry a long time ago, but the pandemic forced us to postpone again and again. Finally, we visited our respective hometowns last Spring Festival to discuss our marriage with our parents, and had already decided to register the marriage next year.

My fiance's father suffered a leg injury during that time, and as a result she remained at home for an extended period and didn't go back to Guangzhou with me.

She took her father to Kunming in Yunnan to see a doctor a few days ago, and I advised her to return to Guangzhou by the bullet train from Kunming directly, but she told me that she had to go back home to pick up some things.

She traveled by air a lot between Guangzhou and her hometown in recent years because it enabled her to arrive on the same day.

On March 16, she booked the plane ticket and sent me the flight information.

I arrived at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport at 2pm on March 21 to pick her up. I called and sent WeChat messages to her but received no response. I grew anxious.

At 4:29pm, I sent her another message: "I'm worried about you because two hours and a half have passed."

I was unaware of the tragedy at the time, so I continued calling her. Then a friend informed me that a plane had crashed. He forwarded me the flight information, and I confirmed that it was indeed the same flight.

I was afraid to tell her parents directly. So I called and informed her brother, who then told her parents.

The following day, I arrived in Wuzhou, the city where the accident occurred. I wanted to find her, despite being aware that the chance of surviving this plane crash was slim. I continued to entertain hope for a miracle.

2. "We didn't even exchange farewells and I didn't wish him a safe journey."

Victim: Chen Junjie (pseudonym), 34 years old

Narrator: Victim's wife

Time of narration: March 22

My husband and I live in Kunming. He was on a business trip to Guangzhou this time.

Usually, he would have notified me of his boarding, but he didn't send me a message that day. I was in the city of Liuzhou in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on a business trip and was extremely busy, so I didn't bother asking him how he was doing.

A friend sent me a message that day, telling me not to take the flight back to Kunming from Liuzhou because it was unsafe. Although she did not elaborate, I sensed something was wrong and called my husband, but he did not answer.

My husband and I met in Lijiang, Yunnan, while traveling. He was a lovely person, tall, handsome, and had no bad habits.

However, he was extremely cautious about personal safety and was apprehensive about injury and pain. So I couldn't imagine what state he was in when the accident happened. I thought that he would be very desperate at that time. He would become nervous at a jerk during a flight.

Our daughter had her 4th birthday on March 20, and I was still in Liuzhou at the time.

My husband had to travel the following day as well. The night before he left, we had a video chat. He claimed that the airline had changed the flight three times. However, I couldn't recall what time his flight had been rescheduled for because my mind was focused on my daughter.

We were barely in contact on the day of the accident. At 12:30pm, he sent me a WeChat message, asking me to return to Kunming by plane, saying that it was safer than the high-speed train. And I replied to him, "I know."

We didn't even exchange farewells, and I didn't wish him a safe journey.

Tributes from friends, relatives of China Eastern crash victims

The crash site being combed for debris and survivors.

3. "I had overlooked the fact that she was also a woman in need of care and love."

Victim: Li Fang (pseudonym), 34 years old

Narrator: Victim's niece

Time of narration: March 23 - March 25

My hometown is located in a remote area of Ruili in Yunnan. Due to the city's lockdown, residents here had to work from home, and my auntie was one of those impacted.

Last August, she got a new job in Kunming, and we hadn't seen each other since then. She didn't even return home for Chinese New Year.

A few days ago, she told me that she was homesick and wanted to return. However, she didn't come back but was prepared to go on a business trip to Guangzhou.

I learned about the air crash from the news at about 7pm on the day of the accident, but I didn't think my auntie was on the plane.

I called and messaged her but received no response. I became afraid and began inquiring about her with her friends and China Eastern Airlines.

We confirmed the tragedy two hours later, and I burst into tears.

We couldn't get to Wuzhou right away because Ruili was still under lockdown. The whole family was in mourning and didn't know what to do but pray for a miracle.

Therefore, I posted a short video about my auntie on Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok), praying that she would return. My grandmother viewed the video over and over again, believing that with the influence of Douyin people could help her get her daughter back.

I had not anticipated the video making headlines, and then we were vehemently accused by netizens. They said the victims' families would be in no mood to use Douyin at this time and suspected we were trying to get attention unscrupulously.

I sent an apology in the early hours of March 25, and I didn't sleep the rest of the night. I never posted another video on it because I didn't want to cause any further harm to my family.

My auntie was 12 years older than I am, and she was nice to everyone. She often expressed concern for me, but I had overlooked the fact that she was also a woman in need of care and love.

Tributes from friends, relatives of China Eastern crash victims

Li Fang's niece sent an apology on March 25.

4. "I no longer have the chance to ask this."

Victim: Yuan Siyi (pseudonym), age unknown

Narrator: Victim's friend

Time of narration: March 25 - March 26

I am from the city of Zunyi in Guizhou Province. I don't know how to express my relationship with her. I'm 28 years old and have never been in a formal relationship. My mom knew that she was a friend of mine but did not know she might be my girlfriend soon.

At 3pm on March 21, I saw the news on Weibo that a plane had been lost. I rushed to open a flight tracker website, "flightradar24," to verify the information, and it indicated that it had been "lost." Meanwhile, another flight-tracking application, "Umetrip," revealed that the plane had landed at Guangzhou's Baiyun Airport.

Someone uploaded a video of the plane's wreckage and surveillance footage of the crash to the Internet, and I prayed it was all fake. However, soon the official statement confirmed the accident. I burst into tears.

I posted a status that day, hoping that there would be survivors. However, I was well aware that it would be nearly impossible.

I wasn't sure if the accident had happened to her at first. All I knew was that she would fly to Guangzhou around 1pm that day. But when I checked the flight schedule and found that there was only one flight at that time of day, my heart was broken.

I decided to go to the accident scene the following day, and I wanted to buy some white roses. However, they were extremely difficult to come by. I contacted at least 20 florists and eventually had to increase the price to get them.

I boarded the last high-speed train bound for Tengxian County in Wuzhou that day, and my heart grew heavier and heavier along the way. I had no idea if anyone would help me get to the accident scene or bring the flowers in.

After locating the hotel, the first thing I did was ask for help on Weibo to find ways to enter the accident site. Fortunately, a netizen who lived nearby quickly responded: "I'll take you there!"

The crash site was being combed for debris and survivors. When we got close to the highway, the netizen stated that he couldn't drive any further, so we placed the flowers on the right side of the road close to the site.

I was delighted to be so close to her and wished she could "see" the bouquet. It contained 21 flowers, representing March 21.

We mostly chatted via WeChat. We often talked about our travel plans, and our last conversation ended at noon on March 21. I told her that we could travel together and that I'd like to be her tour guide.

We only met three times in total, but her appearance remained in my mind. She asked me about my feelings for her once, but I didn't give her a definitive answer.

However, I really want to tell her in person now, "I love you. Will you be my girlfriend?"

Unfortunately, I no longer have the chance to ask this.

5. "That was the last time I dropped him off at the airport."

Victim: Lin Peng (pseudonym), 21 years old

Narrator: Victim's brother

Time of narration: March 24 - March 26

I'm from Shangqiu in Henan, and I've lived in Kunming for eight years.

My brother was 21 years old and studied at a university in Guangzhou. He came to my city for temporary work last winter holiday, and the workplace is not far from my home.

I have no idea why he went to Guangzhou. All he said was that his teacher asked him go there.

That was the last time I dropped him off at the airport.

I don't know how to console my parents. They are in poor health due to grief, so I couldn't go to Tengxian County and had to care for them at home while waiting for the news.

I also have an 18-year-old sister, and while I haven't told her about the accident, I believe she is already aware of it.

I want to go to the scene of the accident as soon as possible. I'm hoping there are survivors and that a miracle occurs.

6. "We had no idea that he went to Kunming."

Victim: Zhang Yang (pseudonym),18 years old

Narrator: Victim's uncle

Time of narration: March 24

My nephew studied at a university in Guangzhou. On March 19, he told his father (my brother-in-law) that he needed to return home to get his ID card because the school required it to perform the nucleic acid test.

He changed his clothes after returning home and went out at 4am the next day, refusing to be sent by his father.

At about 4pm on the day of the accident, the school teacher called his father to inform him that Zhang Yang had been absent from school for three days. My brother-in-law was bewildered and immediately tried to contact Zhang but was unsuccessful.

Zhang's cousin later informed us that Zhang's girlfriend was in Kunming and that he traveled there over the weekend to celebrate her birthday. He kept this information from his parents out of fear that they would object.

We went to the local police station right away. However, the officers informed us that they could only confirm Zhang's trip to Kunming and that we needed to go to the Baiyun airport to get more information about the flight.

When we arrived at the airport, we saw a particular reception room set up and my nephew's name was on a list. The staff of China Eastern Airlines confirmed to us that Zhang was on board.

The airline arranged for a bus to depart from Guangzhou at 9pm that day, and we arrived at Wuzhou around 3am the next morning.

We arrived at the crash site at noon on March 23, and the local government had set up a platform there to pay tribute to the victims.

Zhang's mother was utterly heartbroken. We were worried about her, so we didn't let her come with us. We planned to go back home to inform her of the general situation first and then return to the site a few days later.

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