A video obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper shows that the supervisor directing the firefighting effort at an airport crash site was not told that a teenage girl was on the ground until after she was mistakenly run over and killed by a fire truck, the paper said on Monday.
The video, which the Chronicle obtained from an undisclosed source, was taken from a camera mounted on the helmet of a San Francisco Fire Department battalion chief and turned over to investigators who are probing the death of Ye Mengyuan, a 16-year-old passenger who survived the initial crash-landing but later died on the runway.
The battalion chief who arrived at the crash scene and took charge was not immediately told that crash survivor Ye had been found near the plane, leaving him powerless to prevent her death, the Chronicle reported. The newspaper did not post the video online but published still frames of the footage.
Mindy Talmadge, a fire department spokeswoman, declined on Monday to comment on the report, citing the ongoing crash investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
More than 180 people were injured in the crash of Asiana Flight 214 last month, which had 307 people aboard when it hit a seawall in front of the runway, lost its tail and caught fire after skidding to a halt. Three passengers died.
Ye’s family has retained an aviation attorney who is investigating claims against the City of San Francisco. Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White called the death a “tragic accident”.
Moments after the crash, two firefighters spotted Ye on the ground curled up in foetal position, the Chronicle has reported. They manoeuvred their vehicle around her and notified supervisors.
At that point, at least two other firefighters looked at the girl and mistakenly concluded she was dead, the Chronicle said. They then left Ye to attend to other survivors.
However, fire department commanders then ordered another vehicle into the area to spray fire retardant foam. But the video shows no evidence that those commanders had been notified that Yuan was on the ground there, the Chronicle reported.
That vehicle did not have heat-sensing equipment that could have detected a body obscured by the fire retardant, according to the Chronicle, and it ran over Ye. The driver of that vehicle has not been publicly identified.