Asian woman attacked with rock in Corona dies after 10 weeks in coma

Photo courtesy of GoFundMe

GuiYing Ma, a 62-year-old Asian woman who was attacked last year by a man with a rock, has died after spending 10 weeks in a medically induced coma, her family announced on Tuesday, March 1. 

Congresswoman Grace Meng joined Ma’s husband, Zhanxin Gao, and the family’s pro bono attorneys at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, & Garrison LLP at their office in Manhattan for the announcement of Ma’s death. 

“I am devastated over the passing of GuiYing Ma and my heart aches for her family,” said Meng, who also called for combating the rise in anti-Asian hate and violence. “I will continue to be here for her husband and loved ones at this very difficult time. So many in the Asian American community continue to live in fear due to ongoing attacks against Asian Americans. We must continue doing all we can to combat this heinous violence.” 

Ma died on Feb. 22 as a result of “complications of blunt impact injury of head.” On the morning of Nov. 26, she was sweeping the sidewalk next to her home at the corner of 38th Avenue and 97th Street in Corona, when she was assaulted by a man who was sleeping on the sidewalk, according to the NYPD. 

The suspect, who was arrested and indicted in the attack, had multiple prior arrests, a long criminal record, and was known to be a menace in the community, according to authorities.

Ma was taken to Elmhurst Hospital in critical condition, where she had stayed for 10 weeks following the assault. She had undergone surgery and was treated for a right skull fracture, facial fractures and internal bleeding from her brain, among other injuries, her family wrote on a GoFundMe page dedicated to Ma. 

Despite being connected to a ventilator and a feeding tube, Ma responded to her husband by moving her eyes and tearing up when he would speak to her at the hospital. In early February, and just over 10 weeks after the attack, Ma awoke from her coma, and was able to raise her hand in response to Gao even though she could still not speak. 

During a press conference, Gao spoke about communicating with his wife in the hospital. 

“I counted in Chinese — one, two, three, four, five … and then she could also do the same thing counting with her finger — one, two, three, four, five — back to me,” Gao said. “Even though she could not articulate a word, she could understand what I was communicating to her.”  

Meng had worked to assist Ma and her family while she was hospitalized. In November, she and several of Ma’s supporters gathered in front of Elmhurst Hospital for a silent stand-in for Ma. 

Ma, who came to New York four years ago from Liaoning, China, is the fourth Asian American in New York City to die in the last two months as a result of violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Her family is urging tougher law enforcement to keep the community safe. 

Yihung Hsieh, who owns the Corona property, created a GoFundMe page to help cover Ma’s medical expenses resulting from the attack. To date, Hsieh has raised $203,458. 

“She will be remembered as an outgoing, friendly and kind individual who took care of everyone and insisted on giving to others even when she had very little to give,” Hsieh wrote. 

Ma is survived by her husband, a son and two grandchildren. Services for Ma will be announced after her son is able to arrange travel to New York City, according to Hsieh. 

The family thanked the NYPD and Queens district attorney’s office for seeking justice for Ma and providing social worker assistance. They’re also thankful for the outpouring of support from community members who have helped them, including Meng’s office, Senator John Liu, SoarOverHate, the New York Northeastern Chinese Association, Asians Fighting Injustice, and the family’s pro bono attorneys at the law firm. 

In a statement to QNS, a spokesperson for the Queens District Attorney’s Office said they’re “reviewing the latest developments in this tragedy and will add or upgrade any appropriate charges supported by the evidence. In the meanwhile, on behalf of the district attorney, we extend our condolences to the family.” 

Queens lawmakers on Tuesday took to social media to share their grief with Ma’s family. 

In response to Ma’s death and the string of violent attacks against Asian Americans, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said “it’s time to put an end to anti-Asian attacks once and for all.” 

“GuiYing Ma did not deserve her cruel fate, and the same goes true for the numerous Asian Americans who have recently been the victims of anti-Asian bigotry and violence,” Richards said. “Enough is enough.” 

Councilwoman Sandra Ung tweeted, “Our entire community is mourning with Zanxin Gao and the entire family of GuiYing Ma. This is heartbreaking.” 

Councilman Shekar Krishnan, who represents District 25 which covers the northwestern neighborhoods of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, said Ma was a “mother, grandmother, and a kind neighbor to so many here.” 

She held on in Elmhurst Hospital for three months after a truly shocking and hateful attack last year. Mourning our community’s loss tonight,” Krishnan tweeted. 

Assemblyman Ron Kim tweeted, “This is just unbearable and heartbreaking. I’m grateful to my friend Jennifer Wu for being every step of the way for the Ma family and @Grace4NY @SandraForNY1 @votejgr for your standing with the family from day one.” 

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