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 officials say one thing is clear now: She somehow survived the crash.
And 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 — a fire truck ran over Yuan, killing her.
The new details — released yesterday 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.”
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. San Francisco police and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident.