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San Francisco Firefighter Involved In Asiana Plane Crash Files Defamation Claim

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Image from a firefighter's helmet cam shows Asiana Airlines Flight 214 burning following a crash landing at San Francisco International Airport, July 6, 2013. (San Francisco Fire Dept.)

Image from a firefighter’s helmet cam shows Asiana Airlines Flight 214 burning following a crash landing at San Francisco International Airport, July 6, 2013. (San Francisco Fire Dept.)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A San Francisco firefighter has filed a defamation claim against the fire department, which she says falsely accused her of being responsible for the death of a teenage girl after the Asiana Airlines plane crash in July.

Elyse Duckett filed the claim last week, alleging that the fire department leaked her name to the media, identifying her as the firefighter responsible for running over and killing plane passenger 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan as she lay wounded on the ground outside the burning fuselage of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 on July 6.

An investigation later revealed that the girl had been run over by two fire department trucks, rather than one, and Duckett’s claim alleges that the driver of the other rig, Rescue 10, was the one who initially hit and killed her.

Duckett was driving the fire department’s Rescue 37 rig, which NTSB officials later said was the second vehicle to hit the teen.

The claim by Duckett, who is black and a lesbian, alleges that fire officials targeted her because of her sex, race and sexual orientation, as well as because of her previous involvement in reporting discrimination within the department.

According to the claim, on July 22, a group including Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and Deputy Chief Mark Gonzales told Duckett she needed to take responsibility for the girl’s death and “questioned her in an aggressive, accusatory and intimidating manner.”

That same day, Duckett says she received repeated phone calls from a TV reporter who was trying to talk to her about the crash.

The claim alleges that her name and contact information were leaked to the media by individuals within the fire department who “knew their statements were false, or failed to use reasonable care to determine the truth or falsity of the statement(s).”

Duckett claims she has suffered from anxiety, depression, insomnia and weight gain as a result of the incident and is seeking $25,000 for each alleged violation of the Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act.

A department spokeswoman was not immediately available Tuesday to comment on the claim.

© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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