Visiting Ph.D. student dies following bike accident

By and
Feb. 22, 2010, 1:04 a.m.

Correction: In an earlier version of this report, The Daily incorrectly printed that Sujie Qin was a member of the Singapore-Stanford Partnership. Qin is a post-doctoral fellow in the Reinhard research group in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department. Both Qin and Professor Reinhard knew Wang, who was visiting from the Singapore university that is part of the program.

Yichao Wang, a Chinese graduate student who struck a car while bicycling at a Palm Drive intersection Feb. 3 and suffered major head trauma, died Friday. He was 25.

Wang, one of only a handful of bike accident victims to suffer serious head injuries in some 200 accidents reported to Stanford police since 2005, was a Ph.D. student visiting the civil and environmental engineering (CEE) department from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He was biking home from the lab on Feb. 3 at about 9:30 p.m. when, at the intersection of Palm Drive and Museum Way, he collided with a car.

“He stayed late in the lab every day,” said Sujie Qin, a Chinese post-doctoral researcher. “Everyone who knew him in the department loved him.”

Wang was taken to Stanford Hospital after the accident, where he remained in a coma until Friday.

He was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, a California Highway Patrol officer said.

Wang’s parents arrived at Stanford last week from Harbin, China; his wife came from Singapore, where she is reportedly a student. They remain in the area, said acquaintance Dan Cao, facing steep medical bills and a funeral to organize before returning home. The CEE department is providing for their lodging.

According to Cao, a postdoctoral student in pediatrics and genetics, word of Wang’s accident spread on the online Chinese Mutual Aid International Network; she heard about his case through an online forum and “just walked into hospital, found the person and the family and offered my help” translating for his parents and wife and talking to reporters.

The network’s Web site Sunday night showed that Wang’s family had received about $41,000 in donations from dozens of Chinese donors.

“His family is now in an extremely difficult financial situation because his parents are both retired and receive only a few hundred US dollars a month from their pensions,” said a statement on the Web site. “Yi-Chao’s insurance benefits were exhausted by the surgery, and cost of hospitalization has been a huge burden on Yi-Chao’s family.”

The donors’ comments page on the network’s Web site was filled with blessings and subdued wishes for a happy new year.

Dao said there will be a public funeral for Wang, tentatively on Saturday, before his family returns to China. They are searching for a suitable Buddhist venue, she said.

Meanwhile, the California Highway Patrol has concluded its investigation of the accident, said spokesman Art Montiel on Sunday.

Wang was biking east on Museum Way on Feb. 3 at about 9:30 p.m., Montiel said. According to the Stanford News Service, Wang was headed from his lab to his Palo Alto home. It is unclear whether he had a bike light.

In the Palm Drive intersection, Wang failed to yield to a Honda Civic, Montiel said. At 20 miles per hour, the Civic was driven by a 79-year-old San Jose man.

Wang was thrown off his bike, onto the hood of the car and then to the roadway, where he was found 128 feet north of where he first collided with the car. Without a helmet, he suffered major head trauma and was taken to Stanford Hospital, Montiel said.

In a University statement, Stanford police chief Laura Wilson called the accident “tragic.”

“We hope [it] will serve to alert members of our campus community to the importance of wearing bicycle helmets, and the need to be vigilant about safety at all times, whether you are a bicyclist or driving a vehicle,” Wilson said.

The University pointed to bike safety efforts that it undertakes annually, including safety road shows in dorms, bike light giveaways and training courses offered through its Parking and Transportation department.

Wang was studying the absorption of pharmaceutical residues in wastewater treatment processes, according to the University. He arrived at Stanford in December.

“During the time we worked together, he was a really, really nice person and worked really hard,” Qin said. “It’s hard to accept the truth, but I think people are still trying to balance the work and the sadness,” Qin said.

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