"My sister and her husband were on the flight. So was my one-and-a-half-year old niece."
"It was their first time to fly, and it was their last."
China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735, from Kunming, capital of southwestern Yunnan Province, to Guangzhou, capital of southeastern Guangdong Province, crashed midflight in southern China’s Guangxi region on Monday, March 21, 2022.
There were 132 people on board, including 123 passengers and nine crew members. The Boeing 737-800 was cruising at 29,100 feet and began a sharp descent.
An ongoing search and rescue effort has so far turned up no survivors.
Below is a translation of 我愿意讲述：姐姐姐夫都在那架飞机上，还有1岁半的外甥女 I am willing to tell: my sister and brother-in-law were on that plane. So was my one-and-a-half-year-old niece published [Chinese] by 冰点周刊 "Freezing Point" of 中国青年报 China Youth Daily, on the evening of Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Editor's note: On the evening of March 22, a young person came to us and expressed their hope that the media would report truthfully about their family so that their sister's family of three could be heard by society. Here is their account.
A first-person account by 王白杨 Wang Baiyang (pseudonym)
By 尹海月 Yin Haiyue, reporter of China Youth Daily
I am a family member of a passenger on flight MU5735. My sister 谷函宇 Gu Hanyu is 26 years old, my brother-in-law 郭增强 Guo Aqiang is 28 years old, and their daughter 郭予沫 Guo Yumo is one and a half years old.
I hope that the media can truly report the situation of our family. Some media reported earlier that there were six relatives in a family on the flight, and the youngest of the passengers was in her teens, I also want my sister's family of three to be heard by society.
We are from 云南省玉溪市红塔区 Hongta District, Yuxi City, Yunnan Province. When my dad learned about the plane accident, he fainted immediately and woke up only a few minutes later. Our family has not closed their eyes for three days, and we all want a conclusion as soon as possible - to know what happened to them.
On March 21, after 11 a.m., before boarding the plane, my sister also took a photo of their boarding passes for my mother, which also included my niece. She also sent my mom two videos, one of which showed my niece jumping around the lounge. In the other video, my niece is covered by a mask over her eyes, and my brother-in-law was helping her pull the mask down as my sister giggles.
They were on this flight to take their child to Guangzhou for a medical appointment. When the child was 1 year old, a red spot appeared at the bottom of her neck, and pus always flowed from its inside. While they had the chance, the family used to lie to the child and told her that there were planes and birds in the sky so she would be looking up while they squeezed the spot.
My sister took her child to a large hospital in Kunming [where the flight departed] and found out that it was a "parotid fistula". The doctor recommended surgery when it was not red or swollen, but there could be sequelae and complications that could lead to facial paralysis, a slanted mouth, and a large scar on the upper side of the neck that would stay with the child for the rest of her life.
My sister wanted to take her child to a city with better medical conditions for treatment. She saw a good doctor in Guangzhou over the internet and got an appointment for this doctor on March 22, and decided to fly to Guangzhou on March 21.
Originally, they were scheduled to take the 10:00 a.m. flight, but that flight was canceled and they switched to flight MU5735.
My cousin and I were afraid to imagine that when the plane crashed, would it affect the normal use of my sister's hearing aid? Would my sister have a headache? She is a congenitally deaf person.
She was originally called "Gu Fan", with "Fan" sounds like "annoying" in Mandarin. As her name suggested, she was born a lively and talkative little girl. Later, the family thought she was crying and went to a fortune teller to change her name - replacing "Fan". After that, she really stopped crying but was diagnosed with a hearing problem when she was just over one year old.
The family took her to many big cities for treatment, but the results were so poor that she had no choice but to live on hearing aids. She could hear other people's voices, but could not understand what they were saying. She was strong enough, and she learned lip language and some sign language.
When she was in the 9th grade, she had no chance with the English listening test because of her hearing problem. But she learned by reading lips and was lucky enough to get into high school. However, by the time she was a sophomore in high school, she just couldn't keep up with the pace of school and had to choose to take a break from school and enter the workforce.
She always regretted this and told me to study hard to help her fulfill her dream of going to college and work hard to earn money to make a good living for mom and dad.
She went to work so early because she wanted to help the family share the financial burden. In 2003, dad suffered from kidney failure, had several surgeries, and had no choice but to rely on dialysis to continue his life. After Dad fell ill, the family's savings were gradually depleted and debts were incurred. Mom worked as an operator in a factory, earning 1,000 yuan ($157) to 3,000 yuan ($471) a month.
Wishing to help share the burden of the family, my sister also went to work in the factory of my mother, processing cigarette popping beads. The work there is very boring, the colleagues were 40 to 50 years old, and my sister couldn’t find people to talk to, so she wanted to change jobs. But she was afraid of not being able to find a stable job, so she worked there for 7 years.
After my sister went to work, she often gave me pocket money. She was my moral support. When I was in high school, I came home once a month, and she always gave me a hug. Later, when I was in college, she often asked me when I would come back. We would share secrets.
She struggled with her fate, saying she especially wanted to be like me, to be able to understand what people were saying, and to make a lot of friends. She didn't have many friends because she was always worried about not understanding what people were saying.
After she got married, she quit her job and focused on bringing up her children at home.
My sister had had several boyfriends in the past, but because of her hearing problem, the men’s families did not agree. In the end, they did not end up happy. She and my brother-in-law met on a blind date. She knew that the parents wanted her to start a family early. She and my brother-in-law had a wedding in February 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The wedding was simple, and only a few tables were set up.
My brother-in-law is honest, says little, and is especially good to the child and my sister. He gave all his salary to my sister for keeping, and every night as long as she wanted to eat something, he would go out and buy them.
Knowing that there was going to be a baby, my brother-in-law’s family and my family were very happy. Before she got pregnant, my sister told me that when they went for a maternity checkup, she consulted the doctor if congenital deafness was hereditary. She put her mind at ease when the doctor said it was not.
After having the child, my sister turned all her thoughts to the child. My sister developed a quiet personality. Every day, in addition to bringing up the baby, she kept seeking what is good for the child, bought toys and early learning books for the child. Almost all of the photos in her WeChat Moments were about the baby. She uploaded her child's 100-day photo, writing, "The sun is warm today, my mood today is good." She took a picture of the baby's fat little feet and said, "You look so kissable, mua!"
My little niece is lively and cheerful, and very bold. She was the first child on my dad's side of the family, and everyone loved her, calling her "Little Treasure" and buying her gold and silver bracelets, bicycles, and toy robots. Every month she grew up, my sister would take a picture of her.
When the child was growing bigger and could speak a word or two, my sister would be anxious: sometimes she couldn't understand what the child was saying.
She wanted her child to grow up healthy and go in the direction she was interested in. In the past, my sister was treated differently at school because of her hearing problem, and she wanted to instill in her child the idea that when she was bullied unfairly, she must fight back and not resist just because she was a girl.
When we were alone, she always imagined the future with me, thinking that when I get a job, I will buy her a tablet computer and take her to have a photoshoot.
The child's illness has always been a preoccupation for her, and this trip to Guangzhou was about to completely cure the child.
When they went to Kunming to seek medical help for the child, my grandfather was also hospitalized in Kunming. The grandfather passed away on March 20. My sister was there, and my little niece was playing with my grandfather. That was the last time we saw my sister.
[The picture of three boarding passes sent by Gu Hanyu before taking flight MU5735, from Kunming to Guangzhou.]
After learning about the plane accident, several people in the family were calling the China Eastern Airlines emergency helpline, and the staff recorded our information.
On the evening of March 21, we wanted to go to Kunming Changshui Airport, and just as we were leaving the house, the local staff came over and advised us not to go yet. By about 9:30 pm, people from the local community and police station came over to take blood from my parents to do DNA testing.
On the evening of March 22, two staff members from China Eastern Airlines came and the staff working for the township called us over to talk. We were handling funeral arrangements for the grandfather. We went there at 9:00 pm. They expressed their condolences and brought some gifts, and told us to wait. They said later they may arrange for us to go to the site of the plane crash to understand the situation.
There’s been no result from the search on the crash site. We could only wait.
The other day the Party Secretary of the town came to see us. My father cried to the secretary: three! Only at noon today, the names of the three were carved on the gravestone for grandpa, and immediately we would have to draw three boxes on the three names! [Drawing black boxes over the names indicate the people have died.]
For the past two days, I felt like I was in a dream. I always felt that I would wake up the next day and my sister would call me. I think this thing is not real at all, first my grandfather passed away, and then when I heard the news of the flight, I just froze in place and tried to call my sister.
Sister, didn't we agree to be there all the time? Who permits you to leave me and this family?
And my 1-year-old niece, you are still so young, why do you have to go through this? You obviously would have a great time and your life would have been endlessly exciting, so why did God have to mercilessly stop you on your way forward in life? I haven't even taken you out to play, and I haven't even bought you the toy which I showed you the last time. The mountains and rivers are endless, and you're only a year and a half old. If I could, I would exchange this life with you.
Who would have thought, just as we found the doctor who can cure the child, this illness would not need to be cured. The life-saving flight turned into a death-defying flight.
It was their first time to fly, and it was their last. (End)