SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — The family of a 16-year-old Chinese girl, who was run over by fire rigs after the crash last year of Asiana Flight 214 at the San Francisco International Airport, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city on Wednesday claiming that rescuers were reckless and poorly trained.
Ye Meng Yuan was one of three teen girls to die following the pilot-error crash into a seawall on July 6, 2013. While there are still many dispute accounts, the coroner in San Mateo County determined that she survived the crash only to be struck and killed by a responding fire rig as her body became obscured by flame-retardant foam that covered the runway.
While San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes White has not responded to the filing in Redwood City, she said earlier that mistakes were made during the frantic effort to evacuate victims and to put out the fire.
“Obviously this is difficult news for us; we’re heartbroken. We are in the business of saving lives,” she said.
The lawsuit claims the teen’s constitutional rights were violated when fire personnel failed to move her from harm’s way, reportedly believing that she was already dead.
The Fire Department, while calling Ye’s death a tragic accident and apologizing for the rigs running over her, has questioned the coroner’s conclusion citing findings by the National Transportation Safety Board that Ye was not wearing her seat belt at time of the crash and assert that the teenager was dead before the first rig struck her.
The family sued under both state and federal law and the city has the option to proceed with the case in federal court.
Under state law, agencies typically are legally immune from liability if their crews cause a death while fighting a fire. Anthony Tarricone, an attorney for Ye’s family, told the San Francisco Chronicle that police officers and other first responders have less immunity than firefighters and that no such immunity exists under federal law.