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Widow bids adieu to man killed in Elmhurst trench

Dressed in a black dress and veil, Yue Xia Zhang wept for her partner, Jian Guo Shen, 43, during a funeral Saturday in the Chun Fook Funeral Home in Flushing.

She sat with her head bowed beside the brown casket during a two-hour Buddhist ceremony, wiping away tears as mourners alluded to their 12-year-old son back in Shanghai.

Paying her final respects, Zhang knelt before her husband's picture, bowed three times and offered him paper money to carry into the next world. His photo, illuminated by white candles, was propped in a shrine beside a fully cooked chicken and plate of apples, traditional offerings for the deceased.

Afterward, Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) steadied the sobbing widow as she followed the casket to the hearse.

The councilman and Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik (D-Flushing) said during the ceremony that Shen's death showed the need for tougher immigrant protection laws.

"There's no logic, no sense in Mr. Shen's death," Liu said, a translator conveying his words to the predominantly Chinese crowd. "We will demand greater protections for workers - all workers - but especially the immigrant workers that are placed in the most dangerous situations."

Shen, 44, was crushed beneath six feet of concrete, dirt and stone when an old foundation gave way where he was digging a trench. He had just started working a few days before at the site at 52nd Avenue and 92nd Street.

Shen, who came to the country in 1998, was dragged lifeless from the rubble. Since he had no relatives here, the police were unable to officially confirm the identity of his body.

His fate hovered in limbo for weeks because the U.S. consulate in Shanghai initially denied Zhang a visa, fearful that she would seek to stay in the United States.

At the behest of Liu, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) persuaded the Department of Homeland Security to issue Zhang a humanitarian visa.

She will stay in the country a month before bringing her husband's ashes back home, Liu said.

Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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