Parents of Asiana victim run over by fire truck sue city of San Francisco

(Bay City News Service) — The parents of a 16-year-old Chinese schoolgirl who was run over by a fire truck after an airline crash at San Francisco International Airport last year have sued the city of San Francisco for what they called the “tragic and avoidable death” of their daughter.

The negligence and wrongful death lawsuit by Gan Ye and Xiao Yun Zheng, parents of Ye Meng Yuan, was filed in San Mateo County Superior Court on Aug. 14. 

Ye Meng Yuan was one of three Chinese teenagers who died during or after the crash of South Korea-based Asiana Airlines Flight 214 on the morning of July 6, 2013. The jet hit a seawall while landing and crashed onto a runway as its tail broke off.   

Ye Meng Yuan’s body was found in front of the left wing of the plane. San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault, in a report issued July 19, 2013, concluded she was still alive when she reached that spot and was killed by a foam-spraying firefighting rig that ran over her. 

A second firefighting vehicle again ran over her foam-covered body 11 minutes later, after she had died.

In addition to the city, the lawsuit names Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and 15 other firefighters, Fire Department supervisors, paramedics and airport officials and workers as defendants.

It alleges that several firefighters and an airport safety officer spotted Ye Meng Yuan on the ground while she was still alive and not yet covered with foam, but failed to evaluate her condition, give her medical treatment or move her from the dangerous location.

“Inexplicably, the rescue worker defendants failed to assess Ye Meng Yuan, (or) communicate her location to command, and failed to mark her location,” the lawsuit alleges. 

“They did not take her pulse. They did not check her breathing. 

They failed to conduct any triage on her.  They failed to move her to a safe location and abandoned her in a hazardous position that subjected her to grave risk of harm,” the lawsuit alleges. 

The lawsuit asks for an unspecified amount of financial compensation for the parents’ grief and loss of the support and affection of their daughter and for Ye Meng Yuan’s suffering before she died. 

It includes claims of negligence, wrongful death, and violations of the daughter’s constitutional right to life and the parents’ constitutional right to family relations. 

A case management conference on the lawsuit is scheduled in San Mateo County Superior Court on Dec. 19.

Gabriel Zitrin, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said they could not comment on the case. 

Three firefighters who saw Ye Meng Yuan on the ground told investigators last year that they had visually determined she was dead. Lt. Christine Emmons, who had been hurrying to rescue passengers remaining on the burning plane, said she had concluded “that’s our first casualty.” 

In a submission to the National Transportation Safety Board in January, the city said it “deeply regrets” the two rollovers on Ye Meng Yuan’s body, but argued that “ample evidence” refutes the claim that she was still alive at the time.

The city argued in the filing that the physical trauma of being ejected from the plane during the crash was “the direct cause of death” of Ye Meng Yuan and her seatmate and friend, Wang Lin Jia, also 16.

 In a final report on June 24, the NTSB concluded the two teenagers were not wearing seatbelts and were ejected through the ruptured tail of the plane at different times in the accident sequence. It said they likely would have remained on the plane and would have survived if they had been wearing their seatbelts.

It also said, however, that at least two firefighters had the training and the opportunity to perform triage on Ye Meng Yuan to confirm their visual assessment that she was dead, but did not do so. 

The lawsuit alleges that Ye Meng Yuan was not ejected from the plane and that her death was not caused by being ejected. Instead, it says, the parents believe she left the plane on an emergency slide ramp, moving either on her own or with assistance. 

Wang Lin Jia’s body was found about 1,000 feet behind the airplane. The third victim, Liu Yipeng, 15, was wearing her seatbelt and was critically injured when she was hit by a door that separated from the plane during the crash, according to the NTSB. She died six days later. 

All three teenagers had been sitting in the back of the plane. 

They were on their way to a summer camp in Southern California.

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