SAN FRANCISCO — A firefighter facing potential criminal charges for accidentally running over and killing a plane crash survivor will not be charged for the girl’s death, San Mateo County’s District Attorney announced.
Investigators believe 16-year-old Ye Mengyuan was tossed from Asiana flight 214 as it crash-landed and tumbled down the runway at San Francisco International Airport July 6. The Boeing 777 broke apart on impact and burst into flames. The crash injured 181 of the 307 people aboard, 12 of them critically. Three students, including Ms. Ye and her close friend Wang Linjia, lost their lives.
Ms. Ye was one of a group of Chinese schoolgirls aboard flight 214 traveling to California to attend a summer camp.
San Francisco firefighter Elyse Duckett was driving the fire truck that drove over Ms. Ye as she lay on the runway hidden in foam used to extinguish fires. An autopsy later revealed that the girl was alive before the truck struck her.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told the Associated Press that the scene of the crash and rescue efforts created a “dramatically chaotic situation” and that reaching a decision absolving Ms. Duckett of any criminal liability “was not a tough conclusion to reach.”
A lawyer representing Ms. Ye’s parents told the AP he wasn’t surprised there were no criminal charges in the case.
“It’s really not the subject of criminal prosecution,” he told the AP. “It’s properly the subject of civil action, which we intend to prosecute.”
Ms. Ye’s tragic death has prompted a review of how the city’s firefighters will respond to aviation crashes in the future. City officials have said the girl’s unfortunate death would likely initiate rule changes or other improvements that might help avoid such an accident from happening again.
The crash itself remains under investigation. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has said its investigators have not found any mechanical problems with the airplane after conducting a preliminary review.
Both South Korea-based Asiana and the pilots of the plane have indicated a key device that control’s the 777’s airspeed could have malfunctioned, while others fault the airline and its pilots for relying too heavily on automatic controls during landing and in general.