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MSU scholar in fair condition after car crash

October 18, 2010

Linling Cai finally was seeing the fall colors of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — something she’d looked forward to since arriving in the U.S. — when the car she was riding in crashed Saturday, killing two of its occupants and leaving her and another in serious condition.

Cai, an MSU visiting scholar from China, was in fair condition Monday and is expected to survive after being one of five passengers in the car crash on I-75 near West Branch, Mich., Michigan State Police Trooper Jesse Diaz said.

Cai was sitting in the back seat of the vehicle when it crashed early Saturday morning, according to a news release from the Michigan State Police.

The accident killed the car’s two front-seat passengers, University of Michigan graduate students Ran Xu and Zhangqin Xie. The two other passengers in the back, Wenting Cheng and Chang Gong, also U-M graduate students, sustained serious injuries.

Xu was driving the car at the time of the accident.

Diaz said he believes Cai sustained a fractured neck and broken right arm, as well as a back injury. Diaz said he expects Cai to be transferred to a hospital closer to East Lansing.
Cai is in fair condition, said Nikole Montalbano, marketing and public relations coordinator at St. Mary’s Hospital in Saginaw.

Families of the students have been notified and the cause of the crash still is being investigated, Diaz said.

Only the car occupied by Cai and the students, a 2000 Subaru Forester, was involved in the accident. Police are investigating the crash, but alcohol and texting do not appear to be factors.

Diaz said the incident still is under investigation, and the car will be checked for mechanical problems.

The five students were on their way to the Mackinaw area, Diaz said.

“I think they were going on a fall colors tour,” he said. “They were supposed to meet some other students. They had three cars — they must have been the last car, I believe the other two vehicles made it up there.”

Fubo Rao, a postdoctoral student at MSU and a friend of Cai’s, said Cai had long wanted to go the upper portion of the state.

“She told me that she wanted to go to northern Michigan to see beautiful scenery,” Rao said. “She’s never been there.”

Cai initially was brought to St. Mary’s of Michigan Standish Hospital with Cheng after the accident, while Gong was flown to St. Mary’s Hospital in Saginaw via St. Mary’s FlightCare program. Cai and Cheng eventually were moved to St. Mary’s Hospital in Saginaw.

Cai is studying at MSU in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education, according to MSU’s website. Officials from the department were unable to confirm this.

Cai works as a language and culture teacher at Post Oak School in Lansing. She teaches Chinese to about 150 students in kindergarten through the second grade, Post Oak Principal Camela Diaz said. Although Cai only began teaching at the school in September, Camela Diaz said Cai’s enthusiasm for teaching has already been made apparent.

“She’s very passionate about what she does and enjoys what she does very much,” Camela Diaz said.

Camela Diaz, who was planning to visit Cai in the hospital Monday, said arrangements are being put in place for a substitute while Cai is in the hospital.

Cai will return to teaching at Post Oak once she has recovered.

“As far as I know, she will be coming back when she is released,” Camela Diaz said.

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“We’re working closely with MSU to make sure while she’s out there is coverage for her classes.”

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