Family new to B.C. loses father in Ethiopia crash
Published Thursday, March 14, 2019 1:10PM PDT
Last Updated Friday, March 15, 2019 8:09AM PDT
Allison Wang from Vernon can’t understand why she’s able to stay so calm. The 18-year-old visited the crash site of the Ethiopian Airlines jet on Wednesday. And somewhere, amidst the bulldozers, the engine parts, and the wailing relatives, is her father’s body.
“It’s terrible. It’s horrible. Actually, it’s like hell,” Allison told CTV’s Paul Workman in Addis Ababa on Thursday, her mother Xueli and her aunt Sue sitting alongside.
Allison’s father, Chunming Wang, 47, was onboard flight ET302 Sunday, headed to Nairobi, Kenya for his final paperwork to complete the immigration process in Canada. Chunming, his family says, had bought a tire shop in Vernon within the last few years, and had moved his family to B.C. from China, in hopes of giving his two daughters a better education.
Allison recalled what her father wrote on their family phone chat group when he left for Kenya.
“I’m just going there for three days. I’ll be back. And we just celebrate!” she said, adding that he’d flown all over the world.
Instead, the Wang family is now waiting in the Ethiopian capital. They accept he, along with 156 others, including 18 Canadians, didn’t survive. All they want now is to give him a proper burial. A meeting between airline representatives and crash victims’ families on Thursday just left more uncertainty.
“Tell us 10 days, or 15 days, or 20 days,” Allison said. “It’s already been 4 days. Nothing. Nothing.”
Half a world away, at Big O Tires in Vernon, which Chunming had owned since 2015, manager Garnet Willett said he and his staff had just learned the terrible news.
“He was a great guy, very smart guy, very good electrically,” Willett said of Chunming, who went by the name “Jack.”
Willett recalled how Wang would host Chinese barbecues outside the shop on Saturday afternoons in the summer.
“We had fun, lots of fun working together,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can to support the family.”
As her mother wipes away tears, Allison explains how her father did everything for his wife and daughters. And how the final step for the family to become Canadian Permanent Residents was for her father to travel to Kenya, where he once lived, and bring back a criminal background check. The deadline for him to submit the paperwork was Thursday.
“We [lost] him. So we’re wondering, do we need to go back?” Allison asked.
Laura Best, an immigration lawyer with Vancouver-based Embarkation Law, says that in cases like Chunming’s, where the principal applicant for permanent residence dies, then the application would no longer be finalized.
“The dependents are just that, they’re dependents,” Best said.
She added the Wang family will now likely have the option of applying for PR based on humanitarian or compassionate grounds, which she described as a “discretionary” decision.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada declined to discuss the family’s case, citing privacy reasons, but told CTV in a statement humanitarian and compassionate grounds only apply in “exceptional” cases and that the agency “[assesses] these applications on a case-by-case basis.”
“This would seem like a compelling case,” Best said.
“I’m still waiting for them to give me an answer back,” Allison said. “I just hope [immigration authorities] understand the situation…we have no idea.”
And as they begin to mourn the loss of a husband and father, the Wang family wonders how long they’ll be able to stay in BC, and what comes next.
“Everything my Dad didn’t finish, we will help him to finish,” she said.
With files from CTV’s Paul Workman in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia