The firefighter who ran over and killed a Chinese survivor of July's Asiana airliner crash in San Francisco was unaware of the girl's death at the time and will not be charged with any crimes, a prosecutor announced.
San Mateo County district attorney Steve Wagstaffe said firefighter Elyse Duckett was responding to the burning Boeing 777 when the truck she was driving rolled over Ye Mengyuan . Investigators believe Ye was lying prone on the tarmac and covered in firefighting foam.
"This was a dramatically chaotic situation," Wagstaffe said in absolving Duckett of any criminal responsibility. "It was not a tough conclusion to reach."
Wagstaffe said he arrived at his decision after reviewing police, fire and other first responder reports, the coroner's investigation and numerous videos of events at the scene. Ye, 16, was a Chinese student from a Zhejiang school visiting the United States with classmates.
Wagstaffe said some of the videos show the girl on the ground outside the plane before the area is covered in foam. Other videos have shown Duckett's rig later driving over the same area after it was covered in firefighting foam.
San Francisco Fire Department chief Joanne Hayes-White declined to discuss Ye's death other than to call it a "tragic accident".
Hayes-White said in a prepared statement that firefighters probably saved the lives of many critically wounded passengers scattered about the tarmac and still trapped aboard the Asiana Airlines flight that crashed-landed on July 6.
"If not for the professional rescue, triage, treatment and transport operations that were conducted by all involved agencies, it is likely that there would have been a greater loss of life," Hayes-White said.
It was unclear how Ye got from the plane to the spot where she died. Investigators believe she was down on the ground and not standing during the aftermath of the plane crash.
Anthony Tarricone, an attorney for Ye's family, said he was not surprised criminal charges were not filed.
"It's really not the subject of criminal prosecution," he said. "It's properly the subject of civil action, which we intend to prosecute."