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Northwest Korean Community Trying To Heal After Oregon Bus Crash

Oregon State Police

The Northwest’s tight-knit Korean community continues to grieve the nine people who died in that bus crash just before New Year’s Eve in northeast Oregon. Some of the survivors have already filed a lawsuit against the tour bus company, saying the driver was too tired and going too fast.

Members of a Korean church in Bothell, Washington, are grieving one of their youth pastors. The Oregon State Police haven’t confirmed the death of nineteen-year-old Richard Sohn, but Community Church of Seattle members believe he was on the bus and has died.

Sohn was traveling with his parents on vacation. They were both injured in the crash.

“It’s pushed a lot of young people in our church, young and old I guess, to really take hold of what’s really is important," says Clara Kim, the lead youth pastor at the church where Sohn was active. "And really fully live like he did. He just really enjoyed life and really made sure to give.”

Two boys – 15 and 16 – who survived the crash just filed a lawsuit against the tour bus company. They describe a harrowing scene. They say the tour bus rolled over-and-over as it fell hundreds of feet down an embankment. The boys say they were knocked unconscious or fainted and awoke to screams, people pinned in seats and dead bodies all around them. The boys are from Korea, in the U.S. on student visas.

“I think the fair thing to say is they’re still in shock. That to me was obvious," says Charles Herrmann , their Tacoma/Seattle-based lawyer. "The scenes they saw out there and being exposed to that blood and gore and death as I’ve said has profoundly affected them.”

The tragedy has received international news coverage. Sung Kim owns a travel agency in Federal Way that caters to American and Asian tourists. He says he hasn’t seen a big impact on business yet, but, “Typically the summer season is the highest season, we get a lot of tourists inbound from overseas especially from Korea, Japan or China. We just think this tragedy will impact summer season.”

Oregon State Police have not confirmed a cause of the accident. A spokesman says that could take months.

On the Web:

Complaint: Kang, Kyoung-sen v Mi Joo Tour & Travel (Herrmann Scholbe)
Lawsuit press release (Herrmann Scholbe)

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.