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Coroner: Teen in Asiana plane crash died after struck by vehicle

By Terry Collins

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:57 p.m. HST, Jul 19, 2013

SAN MATEO, Calif. » As the wreckage of Asiana Flight 214 burned, Ye Meng Yuan was lying on the ground just 30 feet away, buried by the firefighting foam rescue workers were spraying to douse the flames.

No one knows exactly how the 16-year-old Chinese student got to that spot, but one thing is clear now: She was alive.

In the chaotic moments that followed — flames devouring the fuselage, those aboard escaping by emergency slides, flight attendants frantically cutting away seat belts to free passengers — an emergency vehicle ran over Yuan, killing her.

The new details — released today by the coroner's office — compounded the tragedy for her family and confirmed the growing suspicions that emergency workers have had since soon after the July 6 crash: One of the three who died did so by rescuers' actions.

"There's not a lot of words to describe how badly we feel, how sorry we feel," said San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.

Yuan's family was upset after learning the details of their daughter's death and wants her body returned to China, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said. "It was a difficult conversation," he said.

Hayes-White said she was trying to arrange a meeting with them and that the "tragic accident" would prompt a review of how the fire department uses the foam and responds to emergencies at the airport.

"There's always room for us to evaluate and improve our response," she said. "(There's) very unfortunate news today. However, many, many lives were saved and we made a valiant effort to do so on July 6."

In a statement, the Chinese Consulate called on authorities to determine responsibility for Yuan's death. Hayes-White said she did not immediately foresee any disciplinary action.

In all, 304 of the 307 people aboard the Boeing 777 survived the crash at San Francisco International Airport.

Yuan and her close friend, 16-year-old Wang Linjia, who also died, were students at Jiangshan Middle School in Zhejiang, an affluent coastal province in eastern China, Chinese state media has reported.

They were part of a group of students and teachers from the school who were heading to summer camp in Southern California.

Yuan and Linjia were seated at the back of the plane. Authorities say the jetliner came in too low and too slow, clipping its landing gear and then its tail on a rocky seawall just short of the runway.

Linjia's body was found body near the seawall at the edge of the runway.

It was unclear how Yuan got from the airplane to the spot where she died. Investigators believe she was down on the ground and not standing up during the "volatile" and "dangerous" aftermath of the plane crash, the fire chief said.

Foucrault declined to go into detail on how he determined the teenager was alive before she was struck, but said there was internal hemorrhaging that indicated her heart was still beating at the time.

Authorities confirmed last week that Yuan was hit by a vehicle racing to extinguish the flames in the plane. Police said she was on the ground and covered in the foam that rescuers had sprayed on the wreckage.

The other victim, 15-year-old Liu Yipeng, died at a hospital on July 12.


Associated Press writer Mihir Zaveri in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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WKAMA wrote:
Talk about bad luck! First surviving after get thrown out of an airplane in a crash landing and then getting run over by a rescue truck trying to help you...enough to bring tears to your eyes.
on July 19,2013 | 07:33AM
tom_warriornation wrote:
she was found near the left wing of the airplane--how did she get there if she was in the back of the plane? was she thrown out as the plane was making a 360 spin; or did she crawl out after the crash?
on July 19,2013 | 07:50AM
pgkemp wrote:
we can only speculate............
on July 19,2013 | 07:56AM
allie wrote:
Incompetence is not just Hawaii. May God be with her soul
on July 19,2013 | 08:10AM
Larry01 wrote:
She was on the ground, covered in foam. A tradgedy, yes, but don't be so quick to cast dispersions on those first responders. They do more good for the world than you'd ever do in a thousand lifetimes.
on July 19,2013 | 08:42AM
Anonymous wrote:
pretty harsh words. you should take a moment to evaluate what you type next time
on July 19,2013 | 09:08AM
honopic wrote:
That will be the day, Anonymous. She's addicted to spewing.
on July 19,2013 | 12:19PM
Shh wrote:
Incompetence is Allie
on July 19,2013 | 09:14AM
false wrote:
Incompetence. Wait till the Obamacare deathpanels.
on July 19,2013 | 09:43AM
UhhDuhh wrote:
May God give you a soul.
on July 19,2013 | 10:16AM
mitt_grund wrote:
Golly, gee whiz, allie. It seems that you've got your own groupies who like to pile on whenever you're online. Oh well, hope you've got your own coat of waterproofing so it just all runs off like the s_wage it is. You're entitled as much as any of the people to make your comments.
on July 19,2013 | 10:24AM
allie wrote:
Thanks. I was only saying that God be with her soul. And yes, in San Francisco there is much discussion of how competent the airport response to the crash was. I have read the accounts that justify my statement. I expect many law suits in SF as does the Mayor's office.
on July 19,2013 | 10:34AM
Anonymous wrote:
Please promise to troll their comment sections, too.
on July 19,2013 | 10:47AM
Anonymous wrote:
you know not what you speak of
on July 19,2013 | 10:45AM
UhhDuhh wrote:
on July 19,2013 | 01:24PM
honopic wrote:
Cold-blooded, allie. And you dare to invoke God's name? Sierra Tango Foxtrot Uniform.
on July 19,2013 | 12:19PM
UhhDuhh wrote:
I second that.
on July 19,2013 | 01:24PM
residenttaxpayer wrote:
Surviving the crash only to be killed by the responding rescue vehicle...condolences to the families of the deceased and to the survivors of the crash....
on July 19,2013 | 08:41AM
dlum003 wrote:
That poor girl, what a horrible experience and death.
on July 19,2013 | 08:41AM
honokai wrote:
The entire plane could have exploded and everyone could have died. Fire fighters have to get the foam down as quickly as possible to save lives. Spray from one truck in this emergency situation obscured the ground. The other truck was unable to see the young lady. Can they study this situation to do better? Of course they will. Calling them incompetent without the completion of an investigation is extremely crass and shallow.
on July 19,2013 | 08:54AM
mitt_grund wrote:
Granted, knocking the overall rescue efforts made to save lives overall may be considered "extremely crass and shallow". But negating the life that was lost is likewise "extremely crass and shallow". Read your words carefully and see if there is any concern about the "the young lady" in your "extremely crass and shallow" comment.
on July 19,2013 | 10:13AM
honokai wrote:
You can insert an "unfortunately" in front of the sentence that offended you if it makes you feel better.
on July 19,2013 | 10:33AM
allie wrote:
on July 19,2013 | 10:34AM
Lanaiboy wrote:
It is an unfortunate tragedy. One can't truly blame the emergency responders too much. They were trying to get close to the crash scene as soon as possible. However, it should wind up being a learning experience. Emergency vehicles should travel very cautiously over grounds that are obscured by smoke, foam, or anything of a similar nature. That should be part of all future lesson plans for emergency crews who are training for such situations.
on July 19,2013 | 09:28AM
Morimoto wrote:
RIP to the girl that died. Now I wonder how long it will take for the girl's parents to sue whoever they can. I've known enough Chinese people (from China, not local) to know that it's more than likely that they will sue to get as much money as possible.
on July 19,2013 | 10:30AM
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