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Subject: Colleagues Mourn Chinese University Officials Killed in Van Crash

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Date Posted: April 09, 2003 12:26:27 EDT

Colleagues mourned seven Chinese university officials Tuesday, a day after they were killed when their van slid off an icy highway.

The delegation from Hunan province had recently completed a course for administrators at the University of Utah and was touring the Northeast when one of two vans skidded off Route 15 south of Williamsport and hit a tree.

"I was on the phone last night with people in our program and with officials in Hunan," said Fred Esplin, vice president for human relations at the University of Utah. "It was a tough, tough day."

The four survivors remained hospitalized, one in critical condition. No names had been released.

Officials from the Chinese embassy in Washington and the consulate in New York visited the survivors Tuesday morning.

Zhang Hongxi, Chinese consul general for New York City, said the news traveled quickly to Beijing, where President Hu Jintao expressed his condolences to the families.

The group left the Buffalo, N.Y., area bound for Washington on Monday morning as wet snow fell across much of Pennsylvania. Esplin said they had planned to sightsee and visit schools in the Northeast.

"They were so excited to see the United States," he said.

Local police said officials earlier had asked the state Transportation Department to install guard rails on the stretch of central Pennsylvania highway where the crash happened. The highway, along Bald Eagle Mountain, is regarded as dangerous.

PennDOT spokesman Rick Mason said Tuesday that the agency determined the area did not meet the criteria for guide rails, but added, "We will take another look at it."

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