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Family Speaks About Losing Only Son in Tragic Hit-and-Run

A week after their son was killed, a grieving family is left with more questions than answers.

On November 22, a dank, dark evening, Western Connecticut State University (WestConn) student Dong Lin, 19, of Brookfield, Dong was left unconscious and bleeding in the street while the driver fled the scene. The first-year student was rushed to Danbury Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries and passed, leaving the family with many unanswered questions as they mourned the loss of their only son.

Dong had lived in Brookfield with his family — mother, father and six-year-old sister — for over 14 years, working with his parents, aunt, uncle and cousins at the family restaurant, Main Moon near Four Corners on Federal Road.

“He was a very nice kid who loved his family,” cousin Angie Zheng said during an interview with the family earlier this week. “He was always working at the restaurant or helping watch his little sister when he wasn’t at school. He was a quiet guy — nice and humble.”

Dong worked part-time at the restaurant to pay for classes and was thinking of majoring in business, though he had yet to choose a degree program.

“He was taking classes in business but had not decided on a major; he was going to decide what kind of business after he got out of college,” said his mother, Qiu. Though when he was young his “dream was to find dinosaurs,” she said.

“He didn’t drink, smoke or anything like that,” she said, he stayed home to watch his sister while his parents worked, and enjoyed playing games online.

The family has been paralyzed by their loss, with Qiu, 41, unable to go to work through the pain.

“My mother has had to take over for her permanently,” said Zheng, who helped translate during the interview. “She’s [Qiu] not physically, mentally able to work.”

, but the family is still left with questions as they try to understand the sudden tragedy that torn down their world.

“We just want to ask the driver — who is about the same age — how come he didn’t stop, how come he didn’t brake,” Qiu said.

A Dark, Rainy Night

Dong had stopped by campus earlier that day to meet with a math teacher, then took the bus home to relax for awhile before returning for his 5:30 p.m. class.

He got on a bus back to Danbury around 4:30 and arrived at class only to discover that the professor had canceled the lecture that evening. Dong left the school and walked back to the bus stop, down the road from the main campus where there were no crosswalks or lights. Unfortunately, as he found when called the bus company, there were no routes that would be coming by again soon. So, with a cold drizzle beating down on him, Dong called his father, Chun Shi Lin, to come and pick him up.

As Lin drove down White Street to pick up his son, police vehicles had already blocked off the roadway preventing him from getting through. The father called his son’s cell phone repeatedly, getting more worried each time as it went to voicemail. Then, an unfamiliar voice picked up the phone.

Lin, 44, who speaks little English, was only able to understand one word the voice was saying to him: police. Lin had his niece, Zheng, call Dong’s phone again and speak with the officers, who informed her that her cousin had been hit by a car and was taken to the hospital.

According to eyewitness reports and what has been reconstructed since the incident, Dong was crossing White Street near Hoffman Fuels (170 White Street) back toward campus, near White Hall. He walked across the first lane, but as he passed the halfway mark in the road, an oncoming car, , hit him.

The driver continued on without stopping, leading to a six-day search that ended when the 22-year-old WestConn student turned himself over to police on Monday, November 28.

“He knew he hit Dong and he just took off, he didn’t even hit the brake,” Lin said. “He told the police he was panicking, but he was only thinking of himself.”

“He didn’t even stop to see how he was,” Qiu said solemnly, visibly holding herself together as she spoke about her only son. “Even if it was an accident, the point is that the driver did not stop for one minute.”

The driver, a student with enough credits to make him a fifth-year senior, turned himself in at Danbury police headquarters on Monday with his attorney and is “cooperating with the investigation,” Capt. Thomas Wendel said Wednesday.

With the suspect’s help, police discovered the vehicle at his off-campus residence, a student-housing complex on Chestnut Street, right around the corner from the main campus.

Police are seeking to arrest the driver, Wendel said, however it could be several weeks before a warrant is issued.

“This person is not a threat to society,” Wendel said, despite this singular incident, and police are doing their due diligence before conducting an official arrest.

Qiu said she wants justice for her son, which for her would mean jail time for the driver.

“It’s up to the judge to decide how long,” she said, “But our son passed away because of the driver and he is free to do whatever he wants. Suddenly this young man [Dong] just passed away, something permanently took him away from his family,” while the driver continues to live his life.

“I don’t believe that the driver feels bad,” Qiu said, “He would have stopped… at least have a thought about how injured he was, the injured guy lying there in the road, in the rain, and he just drove away.”

According to reports, the front bumper of the car struck Dong on his right side and propelled him into the air. He landed on the windshield, cracking his skull and causing significant bleeding in his brain. Dong was unconscious when the ambulance arrived to rush him to the hospital, where he died three hours later.

“If he was going the speed limit the injuries would not have been that bad,” Zheng said, as the force had to be strong enough to throw her cousin in the air. “He knows the roads,” she asserted of the driver, as he lives around the corner and has been attending WestConn for several years, “He knows that road and didn’t care about the people walking by.”

Zheng said by the time the family reached the hospital, Dong was unconscious and showing signs that he would not recover.

“He was basically dead as soon as he was hit,” she said. “Only his heart was still beating.”

Questions Remain

The family is also left wondering why their son did not know that class had been canceled that evening. They were told that the professor had emailed students to inform them that class was canceled, however Dong did not receive the message.

“We’re angry that the school didn’t tell us” that class was canceled, Qiu said. “If he found out there was no school earlier he would not have gone back.”

The family has asked that the university forward them a copy of the email to prove it was sent out, just for the peace of mind.

Qiu said they contacted the Dean of Students, who said he would look into whether the email was sent, but so far they have not received any answer.

“It wouldn’t bother us as much if we knew,” she said.

The professor did send out a message to the students through the university email addresses, Director of University Relations Paul Steinmetz said Wednesday, though he could not release the name of the professor or the class that Dong was taking.

According to sources with the university, Dong, a first-year student, may not have activated his university account and may not have received the email. The university was unable to confirm that explanation and family members were unsure of whether Dong actually used his school account.

“We just want more information,” Zheng said. “Hopefully we can get justice for Dong.”

The family will be holding a funeral for their son on Thursday in Brooklyn, NY, and he will be buried near their extended family and friends in a cemetery in New Jersey.

oldsnowboarder December 01, 2011 at 12:57 PM
it is too bad that the driver didn't stop. then the discussion would be on the irresponsibility of pedestrians on white street. interesting, how the cousin, has expertise in accident reconstruction which is how she can claim that the driver was speeding? why do pedestrians expect cars to stop for them when they jaywalk?
Christine Rose December 01, 2011 at 04:11 PM
My thoughts and best wishes are with the family who have suffered such a tragic loss.
Elaine K December 02, 2011 at 01:50 AM
My heart goes out to the family. How could this person not have stopped and helped him? Why hasn't the person been arrested yet? Isn't a "hit and run" a crime??
eileen c December 02, 2011 at 05:22 AM
Dong was a wonderful kid. He deserved better than to be left in the street. I understand a 22 yr old driver panicking after an accident,but not turning yourself in for almost a week? Unacceptable. This has been a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to Dong's family. Drive by the graffiti bridge to see the memorial his friends painted for him. It shows their grief in the only way they could express it.
Beth December 02, 2011 at 11:54 AM
It is too bad that the driver didn't stop or at least slow down. Maybe this young man would have had a fighting chance. I'm sure the police report will conclude the driver was speeding, if they have not done so already. You would think that someone with 4+ years of college would know to stop when they run someone over. Unless, of course, if he had something to hide like drugs or alcohol.
Anon December 02, 2011 at 07:28 PM
In the driver's manual, pedestrians, when crossing the street, have an unmarked crosswalk extending from their sides. That means pedestrians have the right to cross anywhere, even if there is no *marked* crosswalk because wherever they walk is a crosswalk. It is up to the driver to stop and yield to the pedestrians wherever they may be. Don't try to blame this on the pedestrian. Moreover, the article says that Dong had already gotten halfway through the road when he was struck. That to me means that he had looked and there was no oncoming traffic. For him to not have seen this driver would mean that the driver was speeding.
Jean Llewellyn December 03, 2011 at 03:11 AM
WestConn will hold a candlelight vigil to honor Dong Lin next Tuesday, December 6 at 5pm (rain or shine). Meet in University Hall Parking Lot. Candles will be provided. Please come to honor this quiet, selfless, hard-working young man whose life was cut too short.
Rachel December 05, 2011 at 01:22 PM
The driver’s manual clearly states that once a pedestrian has stepped one foot onto the pavement they are given the right of way. However, debating a case whether or not Dong was "illegally j-walking" is where people are going wrong. The driver left Dong in a pool of his own blood. Any person, even if they weren't the cause behind the injury, should never leave someone alone in that state. This is inhumane and represents an unfolding of our country if we are more worried about the repercussions of our actions rather than doing the right thing. Which in this instance would be for the driver to stay with Dong until the paramedics would come. Stepping onto a street when there are no markings is not the crime here; rather, the driver zooming away after hitting a man is the tragedy.

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