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No charges to be filed in death of Asiana Airlines crash survivor

October 18, 2013|By Kate Mather

Criminal charges will not be filed against the firefighter whose emergency vehicle struck and killed a 16-year-old girl who had been aboard an Asiana Airlines jetliner that crashed at San Francisco International Airport, officials announced Friday.

San Mateo County Dist. Atty. Stephen M. Wagstaffe said that after reviewing "numerous videos" and reports from coroner's officials, police officers, firefighters and other first responders to the July 6 incident, his office determined there was "no criminal culpability for any individual involved in the response to the airline crash."

The death of Ye Meng Yuan was a "tragic accident that did not involve any violation of our criminal laws," Wagstaffe said in a statement.

PHOTOS: Asiana Airlines jet crashes at S.F. International Airport

"The remarkable efforts of the San Francisco firefighters and police officers in responding to this very chaotic scene and in attempting to save hundreds of lives while exposing themselves to potentially life-threatening circumstances were considered in our review," the statement said.

"Our conclusion remains that it does not involve criminal liability in any manner," the statement said.

The district attorney said he now considers the case to be closed.

San Mateo County Coroner Robert J. Foucrault said Ye was alive on the tarmac when she was struck by a fire truck rushing to the crash site, suffering crushing injuries and internal hemorrhaging -- "multiple blunt injuries that are consistent with being run over by a motor vehicle."

Authorities believe Ye was struck by a specialized vehicle -- an aircraft rescue firefighting truck, known as an ARFF -- that can spray fire-retardant foam while speeding toward a burning plane.

Ye was covered in foam when the vehicle ran over her, officials said. Her body was found near the Boeing 777's left wing.

The San Francisco Fire Department was expected to release a statement Friday.

In July, San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White told reporters that her department was "heartbroken" over Ye's death, which she called a "tragic accident." 

"There are not a lot of words to describe how badly we feel, how sorry we feel for it," Hayes-White said.

The fire chief said first responders faced a "very volatile, dangerous situation," with the burning plane, leaking fuel and debris strewn about the runway. She said her department would evaluate its protocols after the incident and look at ways to improve its response.

The National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the crash, which occurred after the jetliner clipped a sea wall and slammed into a runway. Three people -- Ye and two of her high school classmates -- were killed, and more than 180 of the 307 passengers and crew members were injured.

Ye was part of a group of Chinese high school students on their way to West Valley Christian Church and School in the San Fernando Valley for a three-week summer camp.


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