SIDNEY - The deaths of two Western Nebraska Community College students at the Sidney Municipal Airport last week appeared to be an accident, according to Cheyenne County Attorney Paul Schaub.
Schaub says Yemin An, 21, of South Korea, and Zhaoxin Chen, 24, of China, were fatally injured when they were working on an airplane engine inside the school's Aviation Maintenance Facility at Lloyd Carr Field south of Sidney on Thursday, April 1. Both were sophomores in the school's Aviation Maintenance Technician program.
The families of An and Chen were notified through the assistance of the South Korean and Chinese Embassies.
Autopsies were completed on Monday morning.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, WNCC said it has organized a Crisis Response Team to work with students, instructors and all others impacted by the tragedy. Counseling services are available for students and employees.
"We are mourning the loss of two outstanding students, Yemin and Zhaoxin," WNCC President Dr. Carmen Simone said. "This was a devastating accident and their families have our deepest and most sincere condolences."
A group of WNCC students were in the airport parking lot as the Sidney Police Department and Cheyenne County Sheriff's office barricaded the northwest side of the maintenance building to examine the scene on Thursday.
One student at the scene said his classmates were so shaken up by the incident, they were having a difficult time giving statements to authorities.
"We are deeply saddened by the horrific events that have taken place Thursday in our Aviation Maintenance facility," Simone said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, friends, classmates, and faculty members impacted by this tragedy. Our Aviation Maintenance program is a very tight-knit group and this is an incredibly difficult time for all."
The college’s website says the aviation program prepares students for entry-level aviation maintenance technician jobs. WNCC has campuses in Alliance, Scottsbluff and Sidney.
The incident didn't close the airport and the investigation continues through the Sheriff’s Office, Police Department and the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Sidney Volunteer Fire Department and Regional West Medical Center ambulance also responded to the scene.