2005-05-20 / Community

‘Big Sister Ping’ On Trial For Golden Venture Grounding

By Howard Schwach

The full page of pictures and stories in The Wave issue of June 12, 1993 told little of the grounding and its aftermath.The full page of pictures and stories in The Wave issue of June 12, 1993 told little of the grounding and its aftermath. Cheng Chui Ping, better known by her associates as “Big Sister Ping” allegedly was, not so long ago, one of the world’s major “snakeheads” – a person who smuggles illegal aliens into America.

Although she is widely unknown in Rockaway, if federal prosecutors are right, she has had a profound impact on Rockaway’s history.

On June 6, 1993, nearly 12 years ago next month, the “Golden Venture,” a rusting cargo ship carrying hundreds of Chinese illegal aliens who had paid up to $40,000 to reach America’s shores, intentionally grounded on a Breezy Point beach, killing ten of the hundreds of frightened men who leaped from the high decks of the ship into the raging surf. The beach where the ship grounded is still part of The Gateway National Recreation Area, a national park.

This week, Ping was brought into federal court in Manhattan to answer charges that she was the mastermind behind the Golden Venture debacle and, in fact, was involved in the decision to force the Chinese men to jump into the surf.

On Monday, the man who was running the ship testified that he ordered the immigrants to swim for their lives after deliberately driving the ship into a beach bordering Fort Tilden at the west end of the Rockaway peninsula.

Ping became a fugitive in 1994 while federal agents were seeking to talk to her in relation to the deaths. She was arrested in 2000 in Hong Kong in possession of multiple fake Identity papers. She was brought iback to the United States through the extradition process in 2003.

Ping’s lawyer says that she is a successful Chinatown businesswoman who is being framed by Chinese gang members. “We’re not going to attack what the witnesses said, but who they are,” the lawyer told reporters, adding that all of the witnesses are gang members who are receiving lighter sentences for testifying against Ping.

While the story of the ship’s grounding, the death of ten immigrants and the search for dozens of others who spread out throughout Rockaway that day was an international story, The Wave covered it only peripherally.

The lead story in the June 12, 1993 issue chronicled a contentious Community Board 14 meeting. The five-column headline blared, “Barrier Meeting Ends In Chaos.” The drop-head said, in slightly smaller letters, “Board 14 Narrowly Rejects DOT Plan in Emotional Vote.”

On the bottom left of the front page was a picture of one of the Golden Venture immigrants being led from the surf by two NYPD rescue divers.

On page 44 was a full page of stories and pictures about the incident, but the main element of the page was a story by Wave Publisher Leon Locke detailing how much the Golden Venture grounding mirrored the 1836 grounding of the “Bristol,” That ship, bound from New York City to England, ran aground, killing more than 80 people. The only story about the grounding itself was a 25-line recounting of how Gateway National Park responded to the tragedy.

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