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A Chinese student on board Asiana Flight 214 survived the plane’s crash-landing only to be killed accidentally on the runway by a firefighting vehicle racing to the scene. Stephanie Chuang reports.
A Chinese student on board Asiana Flight 214 survived the plane’s crash-landing only to be killed accidentally on the runway by a firefighting vehicle racing to the scene.
That was the conclusion announced Friday by San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucralt at a news conference detailing that Ye Meng Yuan, 16, was killed by "multiple blunt injuries," consistent with being run over by a vehicle. He said that a review of her internal hemorrhaging showed that she had survived the plane crash, and was alive before a specialized airport firetruck ran over her. He did not know how many time she had been run over, and the driver's name of the rig was not revealed.
She and 34 other Chinese high school students were on their way to Stanford University, and then a Christian summer camp in Southern California when the plane crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6.
Foucralt said he spoke on Thursday with the girl's family, along with the two others' victims families who died, to tell them the news. He declined to elaborate on their reaction. Ye's family is in the Bay Area, awaiting to take their daughter's remains back to China. They have declined all media requests.
The teen, whose first name means "Dream" in Chinese, and her middle school classmate, 16-year-old Wang Linjia, died in the crash. The other victim killed, 15-year-old Liu Yipeng, died at a hospital July 12. Another 182 people were injured when the Boeing 777 came in too slow and too low when it clipped the seawall on the runway as it landed on what had began as a sunny Saturday afternoon.
MORE: Full Asiana Airlines Crash Coverage
San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said that investigators believe that one of the specialized rigs, called an Aircraft Rescue Firefighting vehicle, or ARFF, struck the girl, who was "not standing up, but on the ground." She also said that it's possible two rigs hit her.
"This is devastating news," she said. “The men and women dispatched to the scene of the crash of Asiana Airline Flight 214 are in the business of saving lives, and many of them put their own lives at risk that day to save passengers and crew. I remain proud of their efforts under such extraordinary circumstances.”
A few facts still remained unclear after the news conference, specifically what role the firefighting foam played in possibly covering up the teen. She had been sitting in the back of the Boeing 777, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, before it crashed. And now, authorities are investigating how she came to be found at the edged of a paved path near the left wing - covered in foam - just before 12:30 p.m.
Hayes-White has not personally spoken with the families herself, but said that through the Chinese Consulate, she has expressed a desire to meet with them one-on-one if they choose. She said she told the consul that the families have her deepest apologies and condolences.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee also offered his thoughts to the families, while supporting his city's firefighters who he said acted quickly and heroically: "I am profoundly saddened by the involvement of a responding emergency vehicle in the death 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan. On behalf of the people of San Francisco, I offer my deepest condolences and regret for her tragic death, and the deaths of her close friend Wang Linjia, and 15-year-old Liu Yipeng. Our hearts are heavy, and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with their families and friends an ocean away. "
Lee noted that the lives of the remaining 304 passengers and crewmembers on board the craft were "undoubtedly saved that day" because of the firefighters and first reponders."
When asked about possible civil charges that might lodged against the department, Hayes-White said she wasn't a legal expert and wouldn't comment. Criminal charges are not expected in what Hayes-White called a "tragic accident."
Hayes-White also added that, in the wake of this "very sensitive matter," her department will "continue to examine our response, if we could have done something different."
NBC Bay Area spoke with Wang Chuan of the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco. He said there are still eight family members of the three Chinese victims who are still in the Bay Area, taking care of everything from waiting for the autopsies to talking to attorneys. They have not responded so far to the San Francisco fire chief and mayor’s invitations to sit down and talk.
Chuan believes the families are coping better now, after meeting with the Consul General at his San Francisco home a few times in the last couple of weeks.
“I think now they’re getting better,” said Chuan. “But I can still feel they are very – I can feel deep sorrow inside.”
NBC Bay Area reporter Stephanie Chuang contributed to this report.