SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — The fire battalion chief who used a helmet video camera to record the events during the Asiana Airlines crash response at San Francisco International Airport may be disciplined for violating department policy. The head of the San Francisco firefighter’s union said, however, that any such action would be inappropriate.
Thomas O’Connor, president of San Francisco Fire Fighters Local 798, told KCBS that battalion chief Mark Johnson did nothing wrong after he used a GoPro camera while responding to July 6 incident in which three passengers died and 180 others were injured after the Boeing 777 clipped a seawall during its runway approach and caught fire.
“If he had released the tape to the media, I could see the department having a concern but by turning it over to the department and sharing with them what had happened and what we can learn from the incident, I think he did the right thing—absolutely,” he said.
The recording, however, did eventually reach the media. Johnson denied releasing it, saying that he turned it over to investigators to help determine how 16-year-old passenger Ye Meng Yuan, a Chinese student, was fatally run over by a fire truck while lying out on the airport tarmac.
“It’s out there which actually somewhat drives home the idea that these types of things can get into the wrong hands,” San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said.
She said that use of cameras by firefighters violates department policy designed in part to protect the right of the injured and that it’s well known within the department
O’connor said, however, that it’s not a strict policy “everyone” knows that firefighters have been wearing the cameras on their helmets.
“They’ve become cheaper and cheaper over the years and the resolutions have become better and better,” he said. “It has served as a very useful training tool to us.”
Talmadage disagrees and said that Johnson may be disciplined.
“There, at the very least, has to be some accountability held for that,” she said.
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