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UC Davis professor hurt in air crash returns to the U.S.

By Amy Agronis on November 10, 2000 in University

Kevin Rice, the UC Davis professor who survived the Singapore Airlines crash last week, has returned to Sacramento after spending several days in a hospital in Taipei, Taiwan.

Rice, professor of agronomy and range science, was one of 97 survivors of the crash that killed 82 people. Rice and his wife returned to California Sunday on a nearly 14-hour Singapore Airlines flight from Taipei to San Francisco, accompanied by a doctor and a nurse. After they arrived, Rice was transported by ambulance from San Francisco International Airport to UC Davis Medical Center’s burn unit.

Early this week, he was able to walk around the burn unit and had been scheduled for skin-graft surgery on his hands on Thursday. Visitors were limited to relatives only.

Rice traveled from Davis to Indonesia about five weeks ago to visit his wife, Jeanine Pfeiffer, a doctoral candidate at UC Davis who is doing field research in Indonesia. He was returning to Sacramento on Tuesday, Oct. 31, when Singapore Airlines Flight SQ006 crashed on takeoff. He suffered second-degree burns over 12 percent of his body when a fireball went through the plane, but managed to crawl his way out of the shattered tail section.

Singapore Airlines flew Pfeiffer to Taipei and provided her with 24-hour support throughout Rice’s stay in the hospital. Pfeiffer said that she was very happy about how Singapore Airlines and the hospital, treated them during the crisis.

Barry Meyers-Rice, Kevin Rice’s brother, is a scientist for The Nature Conservancy at UC Davis. "They really bent over backwards," he said of the airline and the hospital.

At a news briefing last week, Meyers-Rice, along with Michael Parrella, associate dean of the agricultural sciences division of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Edward Caswell-Chen, professor of nematology and vice chair of the Graduate Group in Ecology, and two of Rice’s students shared their reactions upon learning that Rice had survived the crash.

"It’s pretty amazing," said Meyers-Rice. "You see the footage and it looks like one of those crashes where no one is going to get out alive."

Rice joined the faculty at UC Davis in 1986 after completing his doctorate here in 1984. His research specialty is restoration and ecology, and he studies native species in an effort to restore disturbed lands and damaged ecosystems. He is also chair of the Graduate Group in Ecology.

John Gerlach, a former student who is now one of Rice’s research colleagues, commented on Rice’s survival skills, saying, "He’s a very resilient person."

When asked how the ecology group will manage during Rice’s absence, graduate student Kimberly Reever-Morghan pointed out that "the graduate students will have to be a little more independent for a while."

But, she added, "Probably before he’s even ready for it, he’ll be back here doing his thing. He’s the kind of person who puts school and students above himself quite often."

Meyers-Rice has been posting updates on his brother’s condition online. The page can be seen at