The firefighter, Elyse Duckett, who ran over and killed a 16-year-old girl who survived July’s horrific Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco will not be charged with a crime.  San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe’s decision comes about two weeks after an official investigation was completed.  A California coroner ruled that Ye Mengyuan, of China, was still alive when she was flung from the plane as it crashed when it landed short of the runway, but was killed by “multiple blunt injuries” caused by a rescue vehicle that arrived on the scene moments later.

“Obviously this is very difficult news for us. We’re heartbroken. We’re in the business of saving lives,” San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White said that same month to reporters when she apologized to the Ye family.

In a recent statement, she said she remained “extremely proud of the valiant efforts” of the first responders who she said were faced with “extraordinary circumstances.”  “If not for the professional rescue, triage, treatment and transport operations that were conducted by all involved agencies, it is likely that there would have been a greater loss of life,” she said.  Hayes-White also said that there were many passengers trapped inside the plane and lying outside on the tarmac who were critically wounded.  Prosecutors cited “remarkable efforts” of rescue personnel during a very “chaotic scene” as the reason for not filing criminal charges.  DA Wagstaffe said that after he reviewed “numerous videos” taken at the scene and reports from officials, officers, firefighters, and other rescue personnel, his office determined there was “no criminal culpability for any individual involved…”

The death of Ye Mengyuan, a Chinese high school student traveling to a summer camp being held in southern California was a “tragic accident that did not involve any violation of our criminal laws.”  An attorney for the Mengyuan family said that he was “not the least bit surprised” prosecutors didn’t file charges and his clients are planning a civil action “against the responsible parties.”  “It’s really not the subject of criminal prosecution,” he said. “It’s properly the subject of civil action…”

Officials said that Ye was covered by fire-retardant foam, so no rescue personnel could have seen her.  The Boeing 777 clipped a sea wall and slammed into the runway as it made a short landing at the San Francisco International Airport.  The aircraft rescue firefighting truck, ARFF, can spray the foam at speeds up to 70 mph.  Ye was thrown from the plane, but survived.  She was sitting at the back of the plane when it lost its tail during the crash.  She was thrown onto the ground where she was struck by a vehicle.  Her body ended up on the left wing.  Officials say it still remains unclear how her body got onto the wing.

San Mateo County Coroner Robert J. Foucrault said Ye suffered crushing injuries and internal hemorrhaging “…consistent with being run over by a motor vehicle.”

Fire officials and other observers described a dangerous scene of chaos after the crash, the plane was burning, leaking fuel, and debris was everywhere.  There were 307 people on the plane at the time of the accident.

“This was a dramatically chaotic situation,” Wagstaffe said of absolving Duckett of any criminal responsibility, “It was not a tough conclusion to reach.”

Wagstaffe admitted that some of the videos showed Ye lying on the tarmac before the area was covered in foam.  Later videos show Duckett’s rig driving over the same area covered in foam.

Two other Chinese students, Wang Linjia and Liu Yipeng, died in the crash of Flight 214 and more than 180 people were injured.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is still investigating the cause of the crash, but preliminarily said that it did not find any mechanical problems.  The plane’s pilots complained, after the crash, about device controls malfunctioning and increasing the speed of the plane while landing.


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