The parents of a 16-year-old girl killed after she was run over by two rescue vehicles at the scene of the Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco International Airport took steps this week toward filing a lawsuit against the city.
Gan Ye and Xiao Yung Zheng, identified as the parents of Ye Meng Yuan, a Chinese national, are seeking damages in a wrongful-death claim against the city, according to documents filed with the San Francisco city attorney’s office.
Ye was one of three fatalities resulting from the crash July 6, when an Asiana Airlines jetliner struck a seawall and burst into flames on landing at SFO.
A San Mateo county coroner’s report subsequently determined Ye had been alive on the tarmac following the crash before she was struck by a vehicle. She suffered crushing injuries and internal bleeding, including blunt injuries consistent with being run over by a vehicle, the report said.
Details released in December by the National Transportation Safety Board as part of an ongoing investigation revealed Ye’s motionless body was run over not once, but two separate times within minutes by emergency vehicles trying to navigate the foam-covered tarmac.
The claim names several city agencies, including the Fire Department, Police Department and San Francisco International Airport, alleging rescue crews “breached their duty of care” and “abandoned Ye Meng Yuan in a perilous location.”
According to the claim, Ye Meng Yuan was first spotted lying on the ground by San Francisco firefighters Roger Phillips and Jimmy Yee, who were riding in Rescue 10. Phillips left the truck to help his partner maneuver around the body, the claim says, and alerted Lt. Christine Emmons of a passenger on the tarmac.
Emmons told the pair they should move on, the claim says, but none of them assessed the girl, told central command of her location or even marked her location.
Ten minutes later, the document states, another firefighter, Elyse Duckett, approached the scene with a reserve truck that wasn’t equipped with infrared sensors and without a spotter to help her navigate.
Duckett struck Ye a second time as she left the scene, the claim states.
Revelations that Ye died as a result of injuries sustained during the rescue operation have caused officials to re-evaluate protocols during such emergencies.
The San Mateo County district attorney’s office later decided not to press criminal charges against the rescuers, but an attorney for the family told The Times shortly after the decision that the girl’s death was “completely avoidable.”
“I think it’s obvious to all that it was a tragic accident, but it was an accident that never should have happened,” said Anthony Tarricone, an attorney with the Los Angeles law offices of Kreindler & Kreindler, who filed the claim on behalf of Ye Meng Yuan’s parents.
Tarricone couldn't immediately be reached for further comment Friday.
The San Francisco city attorney’s office declined to comment but said their adjustors are reviewing the claim. The city has 45 days to respond.