When the Fresno County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team successfully completed the Kings River recovery of the bodies of two Thai university exchange students from Florida on September 1, they confirmed there were car parts that subsequently turned out to be another submerged vehicle nearby the accident scene. On Thursday, Oct. 5, the SAR team retrieved the second vehicle, a 2012 Ford Focus, and extracted two bodies from inside the wreckage from the scene below Highway 180 in Giant Sequoia National Monument between Convict Flat and Boyden’s Cavern.
The bodies were presumed to be Yinan Wang, 31, and his wife, Jie Song, 30. The couple were Chinese nationals from Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province. Yinan was postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, San Diego; his wife was an English teacher at a primary school in China. Jie was visiting her husband during the summer holiday.
The couple was last seen August 6 in the Crystal Cave area of Sequoia National Park. They had planned to drive to Fresno via Kings Canyon National Park after leaving Sequoia. They planned to visit Yosemite before returning to San Diego on August 9.
On Friday, Oct. 6, the Fresno County Coroner’s Office confirmed the recovered bodies were the remains of Wang and Song. Through a comparison of fingerprints, Fresno County Crime Scene technicians were able to make the positive identification.
The wreckage of the Ford Focus and the Thai students’ rental car, a 2016 Hyundai Sonata, will remain at the bottom of the canyon on the rocky shoreline to be retrieved by the California Highway Patrol at a later date.
Tony Botti, Fresno County Sheriff’s Office public information officer, said investigators can only speculate as to what caused both vehicles to exit the roadway without skid marks and crash into the steep river canyon below within a timespan of 11 days. The red car crashed through a guardrail, Botti said. Investigators believe Wang and Song's Focus left the roadway about 30 to 50 feet away from that spot, in an area without a guardrail, and crashed through trees and brush before plummeting into the canyon.
“What we do know,” Botti said, “is that a section of sharp curves entering Kings Canyon is in the direct line of sight of the setting sun during the summer months. Any motorist ascending that steep canyon road could easily be blinded for an instant and that’s all it would take.”