It was difficult for Kristin Young to understand what her patients needed.
They spoke Chinese. Young didn’t. iPads and translation apps were only so helpful.
Even when Young, a nurse case manager at Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, successfully tended to her patients’ health needs, she had to worry about serving them the meals to which they were accustomed and comforting them over the loss of life they had witnessed.
“We were reminded,” Young said Friday night, “that we may be different, but we are very much alike.”
After her remarks recounting her role in assisting the victims of a bus crash near Bryce Canyon National Park on Sept. 20, Young received a hug from Minister Xu Xueyuan, from the Chinese embassy to the United States.
Xu and the Chinese government on Friday held a reception at Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City to thank everyone who responded to the crash, which killed four people. The other 27 people aboard — including the driver — each suffered some kind of injury.
Wang Xijun, first secretary for the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., told the roughly 60 people who attended the event that the injured have all returned to China. Some are still recuperating, he said.
Xu told the audience that the state, county and local government agencies that responded, as well as the volunteers who assisted the injured, had the “highest respect and most sincere appreciation” of the Chinese government.
Xu was last in Utah for the sesquicentennial of the Golden Spike National Historic Park and the connecting of the transatlantic railroad. Much of the labor was performed by Chinese immigrants.
She recounted the history of the relationship between Utah and China, including economic and cultural exchanges, and told the audience that the Chinese embassy “prioritizes our relationship with Utah over all of the 50 states.”
Some of the people who aided the crash victims told their stories. Speakers included health professionals, a Utah Highway Patrol major, an assistant state medical examiner and a teacher in the Washington County School District’s Chinese immersion program. The district sent teachers fluent in Chinese to help translate in the aftermath of the crash.
Those teachers and other Chinese speakers from across Utah traveled to Garfield County, where the crash happened, and to the hospitals in Panguitch, St. George and Provo where the injured were taken.
The Chinese speakers took shifts sitting with injured, translating for them and their families when they arrived from China. The volunteers cooked traditional Chinese meals for the injured and their families.
The children in the Washington County immersion program recorded popular Chinese songs to play for the patients and sent them get well cards.
Taowen Le, a Weber State University professor of information systems and technologies who also is chairman of the board for the Utah Chinese Civic Center, was one of those who drove to southern Utah. He said he learned from the experience, “charity unites all.”
After the short speeches, representatives of the various public and private agencies accepted letters of appreciation from Xu, posed for pictures and enjoyed a buffet.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation. A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board found no mechanical problems with the 36-passenger bus operated by American Shengjia Inc.
The report said the bus was traveling east on State Route 12 when it went off the right side of the road. The 60-year-old driver steered back onto the road and the bus went into the westbound lane.
The driver “then steered sharply back to the right,” the report stated, and the bus rolled left.