News Column

Asiana Crash Victim Killed by Fire Truck, Coroner Says

July 19, 2013

In another heartbreaking turn of events since Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport two weeks ago, a coroner revealed Friday that one of the victims jettisoned from the disintegrating aircraft initially survived but was killed after she was run over by a fire truck responding to the chaos on the runway.

San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said that 16-year-old Ye Mengyuan died from multiple blunt-force injuries consistent with being run over by a vehicle.

San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, appearing with Foucrault at a press conference, apologized to the Ye family for her death.

It was the worst possible outcome ever since authorities raised the possibility a rescue vehicle from the San Francisco Fire Department's airport detail struck one of the fatal victims in the aftermath of the July 6 crash of the Boeing 777 jetliner.

Mengyuan was one of two girls found dead after the crash, along with 16-year-old Wang Linjia, who authorities believe died from injuries suffered when the Chinese schoolmates were ejected from the plane after the tail hit the sea wall on Runway 28L and broke off. Both girls were seated near the rear of the aircraft.

It also means that four of the five people who were thrown from the plane survived, at least briefly. Three flight attendants also were found on the runway and were hospitalized with a battery of serious injuries. A third fatality was reported July 12 when 15-year-old Liu Yipeng, who was found in the wreckage still strapped to her seat, died from her injuries at San Francisco General Hospital.

The San Francisco Fire Department has said that firefighters realized only after extinguishing the plane fire and helping the more than 300 survivors get to safety, that one of the victims was found in the tracks of a rescue vehicle. Mengyuan had been covered in fire-retardant foam and was discovered in the tracks the fire truck made in the foam, according to the San Francisco Police Department, whose hit-and-run investigation unit was assigned to the case.

Still, even when that finding was made last week, it was still up in the air about whether her death was caused by the crash or the vehicle, a question that was given tragic clarity Friday.

Two days after the crash and one day after the revelation of what happened to Mengyuan surfaced, the fire department said each of the five personnel operating a rescue apparatus at the crash site passed drug and alcohol screenings in the ensuing investigation.

The Associated Press reported over the weekend that Linjia didn't get immediate medical attention because she wasn't spotted until 14 minutes after the crash.

Meanwhile, a federal investigation continues into the cause of the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board has reported that the aircraft was flying too low to the runway and well short of its targeted landing speed, and that by the time they realized this and decided to try another landing, the tail hit the sea wall, which broke the plane into pieces and sent it spinning into the runway, after which a fire broke out.

Investigators are exploring a variety of factors, but the information revealed so far has suggested pilot error rather than mechanical failure, based on cockpit-voice and flight-data recorder information and the fact that the lead pilot was relatively inexperienced in operating the 777 and was making his first landing at SFO.

All three girls who died attended Jiangshan Middle School in Zhejiang, an affluent coastal province in eastern China, according to Chinese media. They were heading to a summer camp at West Valley Christian School in Los Angeles.


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Source: Copyright San Jose Mercury News (CA) 2013

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