By Kelsey Durham
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) has successfully obtained visas for a group of family members of two Queens teenagers who died in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway last month.
The mother and sister of 19-year-old Jiahao Liang, of Flushing, were granted visas March 11 after Meng was able to set up interviews for both with the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou, China, that morning. With the visas, the family members will be able to fly to New York and be with Liang’s father, who is already living in Flushing, according to Meng’s office.
Liang was driving an Audi sedan between Exits 24 and 25 around 1 a.m. Feb. 18 when the vehicle slid off the roadway and struck a tree, according to police. Liang and his passenger, 16-year-old Jennifer Gao, of Oakland Gardens, were both pronounced dead at the scene.
Gao’s grandmother was also granted a visa after her March 11 interview, and her aunt was still working to complete the process as of Wednesday. Meng said Gao’s aunt fainted during her interview for unknown reasons, but the congresswoman said she is in touch with the Chinese consulate to get the results as soon as possible.
Meng said she looked into setting up interviews for the four women after a friend of both teens’ families reached out to her office and asked her to help with the applications.
Liang and Gao were both residents of Meng’s congressional district, according to their death certificates. Gao attended Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bayside and Liang was a student at St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows.
“The death of these two teenagers is a terrible and horrible tragedy, and our hearts go out to their family and friends,” Meng said. “We will assist them with whatever needs they may have during this difficult time.”
The visas that were obtained for each of the family members are good for one month, according to Meng’s office, but it is not yet known when the families will fly to Queens.
Funerals were held during the last week of February and both teens were cremated.
“The granting of these visas will allow the families to come to Queens to be with loved ones during this very difficult time and to take the teens’ cremated remains home to China,” Meng said.
Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.