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Air crash victim killed by fire truck

By Agencies in San Mateo, California | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-21 08:21

A teenager survived the Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco only to be struck and killed by a fire vehicle rushing to fight a blaze that broke out on the plane, officials said on Friday.

As the wreckage of Asiana Flight 214 burned, Ye Mengyuan was lying on the ground just 9 meters away, buried by the firefighting foam rescue workers were spraying to douse the flames.

No one knows exactly how the 16-year-old Chinese student got to that spot, but officials say one thing is clear now: She somehow survived the crash.

"There's not a lot of words to describe how badly we feel, how sorry we feel," said San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.

"Obviously this is very difficult news for us," Hayes-White said. "We're heartbroken. We're in the business of saving lives."

Hayes-White said Ye was struck by at least one specialized fire fighting vehicle normally deployed at San Francisco International Airport, but left open the possibility that she was hit by more than one rig.

San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault added that the finding was based upon examination of internal hemorrhaging of the girl, which ruled out chances she was already dead when hit by the truck.

Foucrault declined to go into detail on how he determined the teenager was alive before she was struck, but said there was internal hemorrhaging that indicated her heart was still beating at the time.

Ye's family was upset after learning the details of their daughter's death and wants her body returned to China, Foucrault said.

"It was a difficult conversation," he said.

Hayes-White said she was trying to arrange a meeting with them and that the "tragic accident" would prompt a review of how the fire department uses the foam and responds to emergencies at the airport.

Offering condolences for Ye's tragic death, a spokesman with the Chinese Consulate-General in San Francisco said on Friday "we are saddened to learn that Mengyuan 'died of multiple blunt injuries that are consistent with being run over by a motor vehicle.'"

The spokesman urged the US side to deal properly with the aftermath of Ye's death and investigate and affix responsibility for this tragic accident.

Online comments by Chinese citizens, while expressing sadness at Ye's death, praised the US authorities for revealing the truth and contrasted that transparency with frequent cover-ups by their own governments.

Hayes-White said she did not immediately foresee any disciplinary action. San Francisco police and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident.

San Francisco police, who are still investigating the matter, have interviewed the firefighters operating the rig and given them drug and alcohol tests, Hayes-White told reporters.

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