By Jocelyn Moore
Northwest Asian Weekly
Injured international students from the Ride the Ducks accident on the Aurora Bridge will be given private insurance plans if they lose student health coverage during prolonged medical leaves, state officials said last Friday.
Phuong Dinh, 18, is at the Seattle Keiro Nursing Home. She suffered a broken leg and arm from the accident, was contacted by Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s office last week and was informed that a private health-care plan may be available through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.
North Seattle College also announced that the school will cover the monthly premiums and deductibles of private insurance for Dinh and other injured students from the accident by using emergency funds gifted from the state.
Like the other victims in long-term-care facilities, Dinh will lose her student insurance in January due to not being able to enroll in school. The option of private insurance will ease the financial burden of the victims and their families.
However, in order for Dinh to be eligible for private insurance, the U.S. State Department has to change her current student visa to a non-student visa.
Meanwhile, the owner of the Seattle Ducks firm, Brian Tracey, expressed sorrow last week in a public statement and said that his company is unable to financially assist victims yet due to its insurer’s claim process.
Five international students from North Seattle College were killed when their charter bus was struck in September by the Seattle Ride the Ducks tour vehicle.
“There are still wounds in our heart,” North Seattle College President Warren Brown said at a news conference after the crash. “For someone to come from another country, to learn here, to be excited about an opportunity … and to have this tragedy occur, is painful.”
The students who died were identified as Privando Eduardus Putradanto, 18, of Indonesia; Mami Sato, 36, of Japan; Claudia Derschmidt, 49, of Austria; Runjie Song, 17, of China; and Haram Kim, 20, of South Korea.
Students were on a tour of city landmarks, such as Pike Place Market, before classes were set to begin for the school year.
The Ducks vehicle was ferrying tourists across a crowded Seattle bridge when it suddenly swerved into the students’ oncoming charter bus. The crash also injured dozens of other people.
The accident has shaken the diverse school of about 14,000 students, Brown said.
Since the accident, Dinh has had four surgeries. She has injuries on her left foot, hand, and eye. Aside from a broken leg in pain, she cannot close her left eye when she sleeps. Her left hand still doesn’t function well.
Asked if she has any regrets about coming to the U.S., Dinh said no. “I feel lucky to be in America.” Dinh believes in fate.
“This accident was going to happen no matter where I was. I am lucky because of the good (medical) care in America.”
“I have been in a nursing home for almost three months and will be here for much longer according to the doctors. I feel okay now, try not to be sad or lonely. I am getting more used to the pain and am thankful to be alive. But I am worried about the future. I am (still) positive (despite the accident), so I can see the light (out of what happened). The light will guide me to have a better future.”
Dinh’s father is Vietnamese Chinese. He is staying with Dinh. Her mother just went back to Vietnam to take care of Dinh’s 3-year-old sibling. The oldest in the family, Dinh has a younger brother and sister.
Dinh’s attorney, Andrew Ackley, said Dinh’s medical cost is in the six figures. As of now, he and Dinh have not decided on the amount of compensation they should request from Ride the Ducks. “It will depend on the next six months,” he said, depending on Dinh’s recovery. (end)
Dinh has a fundraising site where people can donate to help pay for her ongoing medical care: https://www.youcaring.com/phuong-dinh-486488.
Assunta Ng contributed to this report.
Jocelyn Moore can be reached at email@example.com.