Filmed and written by Jean Wong, edited by NWAW staff
By Jean C Wong
Northwest Asian Weekly
On Saturday, April 23, just after 5 p.m., three people were involved in an accident on Highway 18 near Tiger Mountain, 15 minutes away from North Bend.
A red Ford Probe and a green Toyota Celica were being driven recklessly westbound. The Celica, driven by 26-year-old Mine Her, from Pullman, lost control as it tried to pass another vehicle and hit an eastbound red Honda Pilot, driven by Trung Ngo, a Vietnamese American from Covington.
The Ford, driven by 39-year-old Frank Willing, from Tacoma, also lost control and flipped over. Ngo died later that night after being taken to Harborview Medical Center. His wife, Cheuk Chann, was in the car with him. She suffered injuries and was released from the hospital two days later.
Ngo was born in Saigon on Feb. 14, 1974. He came to the United States in 1994 when he was in high school. He studied at Tacoma Community College and started working for the University of Washington (UW) about six years ago as a mechanical maintenance engineer. According to his family members, he worked very hard to support his family.
Chann, who also works for the UW, is a fiscal specialist. Their children, Kenneth and Anna Ngo (7 and 8 years old, respectively), were not in the car at the time of the accident.
Led into the house by several family members, Chann has trouble walking after the accident. She can’t sleep, feels constant pain in her legs and chest, and even suffers from memory loss.
“I am very unstable right now” she said during a press conference at her house on Monday, April 25, apologizing for her mental, emotional, and physical condition. Grieving and in shock, she seemed a little dazed and said repeatedly that she felt like she was in a dream, hoping that she would wake up and realize that nothing had really happened.
“It just happened so fast and I wish it was only a dream, but in real life, my husband is gone from the earth,” said Chann. “He was such a loving, caring father and husband. I have two small children and I don’t know what I’m going to do without him.”
Though she does not remember what happened when the cars collided, she is confident that there were many witnesses around who do. She and her husband were talking about what a beautiful day it was and discussing what they were going to do in the summer when, suddenly, everything went blank.
“I thought I was dreaming,” she said. “I smelled smoke, and I couldn’t breathe — I thought the car would explode. I unlocked the door to get out, but I thought he was trapped in there and that the kids were in the car.”
Chann kept screaming for her kids, not realizing that they were with her mother. “My kids are in the car,” she remembers saying repeatedly to a woman who was holding her arm.
Chann said the worst part was that she didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to her husband. She kept asking if he was all right, but the hospital staff kept saying, “We don’t know.”
She said she feels helpless and doesn’t know how she will cope. They had planned so much for their future and for their kids before his life was tragically cut short. “He was so young. It’s not fair!” she said, pausing to collect herself. “He was only 36 years old. He didn’t do anything wrong. Every time I look at the pictures of the car crash, I’m just heartbroken. He doesn’t deserve to die like that. Look at my kids — nothing will be the same anymore.”
Images of her husband’s handsome face surrounded by his adoring family were spread out over the glass coffee table. Pointing at their recent family portrait, Chann said, “Don’t you see in the photos a smiling, happy family? I don’t know how we will survive this, especially with this tough economy.”
Pausing frequently to comfort her children and wipe away her own tears, she spoke into news cameras, urging witnesses to talk to the police about what happened, as the case is still under investigation. “I just want to tell all of you out there who witnessed the accident, please come forward. Not just for the sake of my husband, but for [all] those [other] lives, and please, whoever [commits] a selfish action [and] races again, think of someone you [may] take the life of.”
Det. Ruth Medeiros encourages anyone who witnessed the accident to contact her at 425-401-7719.
Chann also expressed her wish for the police to take the case seriously. She hopes that both the police and the city will do something about the racing on Highway 18 to ensure that this sort of incident does not happen again.
Despite her injuries, she is most concerned about her children’s welfare because in her condition — she cannot even take care of herself — she is in no position to care for them. She cried as she said, “Who is going to take care of my kids?”
Chann said she doubts that she will ever meet anyone as good as her husband again. She and Ngo were happily married for 10 years. “I love him so much — he had a good heart, and he was a good father. He really cared for his family. Nothing can replace him.”
Sandy Johnson, a next door neighbor, was visibly upset after hearing the news. “He was such a nice guy, if at times a little hard to understand — we would chat when he came out on the porch for a smoke, and we’d take turns mowing the lawn. It was his turn.”
Ngo’s younger brother, Bao Nguyen, said, “He was a humble, caring man with a very genuine smile. You could tell he really cared about the people around him. He was a wonderful father and husband. At the hospital, my sister-in-law kept saying, ‘He was a good husband. He was a good husband.’ ”
Ngo’s sister, Thoai-Huong Ngo, was one of the first family members to arrive at Harborview Medical Center after he was admitted. She recalled, “When they showed me the watch he had been wearing that day, I knew, and I passed out.”
She also remembers her brother as a kind and generous man, always smiling, loving, and happy. “He was healthy and strong. He did good things for the community. Why did they take his life away?” she said. Gesturing toward her family, who were also weeping silently, she added, “We all really miss him.” Ngo’s mother, Minh-Thu Nguyen, nodded in agreement as she stood stoically by her daughter’s side.
Chann, still sobbing, continually reached out to caress her grief-stricken children. She whispered “Mommy is trying. I will take care of you.” ♦
Ngo’s funeral will be held Saturday, April 30 at Columbia Funeral Home, 4567 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle. The family will also be there this Thursday and Friday from 1–7 p.m. Witnesses of the accident should contact Det. Ruth Medeiros at 425-401-7719.
Jean Wong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.