Asiana plane crash

Parents of teenage Asiana crash victim sue San Francisco officials over ‘wrongful death’

Parents allege the responders left Chinese teen in danger, in a federal case that may strip rescuers of their immunity from liability

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 August, 2014, 6:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 August, 2014, 6:32pm

The parents of Ye Mengyuan, a 16-year-old victim of last year’s Asiana crash in San Francisco, have launched a wrongful death lawsuit against San Francisco City and County.

The civil lawsuit was filed under both state and federal law, and seeks damages over the death of Ye, a Chinese teen who survived the July 6 crash last year – only to die after being hit by an emergency vehicle rushing to the scene, according to the coroner’s report.

The suit also names 16 individuals, including San Francisco’s fire chief Joanne Hayes-White, top officials at San Francisco International Airport, along with several emergency responders and policemen who were present at the crash site.

A federal case means emergency responders may be held liable for any death caused, even if they are exempted under California state law.

Ye Mengyuan’s death certificate says she died of “multiple blunt injuries”, but there is disagreement as to how she sustained them.

Her parents, Gan Ye and Xiao Yun Zheng, said their daughter died while lying on the runway of the airport after she was struck by two emergency vehicles.

The parents claim that emergency workers acted with “deliberate indifference” towards their daughter and “inexplicably, failed to evaluate her condition”. They then abandoned her on the runway, where she was lying in the foetal position and in the path of oncoming vehicles.

WATCH: How the Ye Mengyuan tragedy unfolded

The latest suit alleges that the rescue workers “failed to examine Ye Mengyuan; failed to ensure she was placed or moved to a safe location; failed to make her location and failed to protect her from moving vehicles in the vicinity of the aircraft where it was known many vehicles would be travelling”.

They also “failed to alert commanders at the scene; failed to properly assess and triage Ye; failed to properly treat her; and abandoned her in perilous location”.

Ye’s parents filed the lawsuit before the Superior Court of the State of California on Wednesday.

The suit also claims that the city and rescue teams violated the constitutional rights of Ye – who is a Chinese national – under the 14th Amendment of the US Bill of Rights. The amendement is a “prohibition against depriving a person of life and family relationship without due process of law”.

The lawsuit comes after a civil claim for damages filed by the parents against San Francisco in January, in which they named 37 individuals who they claimed were liable.

Ye was one of three victims who died following the crash landing of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 after the plane hit a sea wall while landing in San Francisco.

The other victims include two other teenage girls, including Ye’s friend, Wang Linjia, who was also 16.

Following an investigation of the crash, Asiana Airlines found its pilots were at fault for the crash as a result of a “fatally slow” descent to the airport, according to previous reporting in the South China Morning Post. The airline also blamed a design flaw in the airplane, a Boeing 777.

A review by the National Transportation Safety Board found a contradicting explanation for her death. The Board claims that Ye was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, and that her injuries are consistent with being thrown from the plane when it crashed.

Ye Mengyuan comes from Jiangshan city in Zhejiang province.

Her family is represented by Krienderler and Kriendler, a prominent US law firm that specialises in aviation crash suits.

Chinese survivors of the Asiana crash have previously filed a claim against Boeing for about US$50,000 in damages each.