Video from firefighter's helmet cam sheds new light on death of teen at Asiana Airlines crash site
Images taken from a helmet-mounted video camera worn by a member of the San Francisco Fire Department at the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash scene sheds some new light on the the death of a 16-year-old survivor who was struck and killed by a rescue truck.
The San Francisco Chronicle obtained the footage from the Fire Department's investigation into the death of Ye Meng Yuan, the Chinese schoolgirl who survived the crash of the Boeing 777 at San Francisco International Airport but died after being crushed by a foam-spraying rig.
The footage, taken from Battalion Chief Mark Johnson's helmet, appears to show that Ye was obscured by flame-retardant foam. It also unveils a troubling chain of events, the paper reports: Johnson, who arrived after firefighters found Ye and mistakenly concluded she was dead, was apparently not informed of that discovery.
Johnson was briefed at the scene by Capt. Anthony Robinson, who told him all passengers were off the plane. According to the Chronicle report:
The battalion chief started walking toward the wreckage. Johnson looked toward the area in front of the left wing where Ye was found, but only foam was visible.
As Johnson walked toward the back of the jet, the footage shows, a foam-spraying rig called Rescue 10 was in the distance, driving away from the area where Ye was discovered.
The two firefighters aboard Rescue 10, Roger Phillips and Jimmy Yee, have told investigators they spotted Ye in the fetal position on the ground just before they drove off, according to Fire Department sources and others involved in the probe.
Fire Lt. Christine Emmons and at least one other firefighter looked at the girl and concluded she was dead, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the probe publicly.
According to the San Mateo County coroner, however, Ye was alive for several more minutes, until a second rig ran over her.
Another image published by the paper shows a firefighter covering the body after Ye was struck.
Two other Chinese students died and 181 others were wounded in the July 6 crash.
The footage was turned over to investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, which is leading the probe.
Ye's body was found in a foot-deep layer of fire-retardant foam. An autopsy conducted by the San Mateo County coroner showed that Ye had died of multiple blunt-force injuries consistent with being hit by at least one vehicle and possibly two. Last month, San Francisco Chief Joanne Hayes-White called Ye's death "a tragic accident."
"Obviously this is very difficult news for us — we're heartbroken," Hayes-White said. "We're in the business of saving lives."