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Asiana Flight 214 aftermath: ceremonies, tears and lawsuits

Updated: 2013-07-30 11:29
By Chen Jia in San Francisco and Zhou Wenting in Shanghai ( China Daily)

Asiana Flight 214 aftermath: ceremonies, tears and lawsuits

Relatives of three Chinese teenagers who died after a plane crash in San Francisco on July 6 return to their hometown in Jiangshan, Zhejiang province, on Monday. They brought back the three girls' ashes. Liao Zhengyan / for China Daily

Two San Francisco firefighters who ran towards the flames caused by the crash of Asiana flight 214 on July 6 said they found an injured Chinese teenage passenger on the ground and reported to a supervisor, but the girl was later fatally struck by a fire truck on site.

Forty-nine-year-old Elyse Duckett, a veteran of the fire department, was reportedly in the driver's seat of that truck.

Sources at ABC News said she drove without any rider or spotter to help her navigate on that day.

She was described as a "sharp and competent" veteran of the fire department, said the source.

Local media said Roger Phillips and Jimmy Yee were the firefighters who found the Chinese girl Ye Mengyuan and she was not covered in foam.

They described her as wearing her yellow school uniform top and blue jeans.

Phillips, the spotter for Rescue 10, jumped off the fire truck and helped direct Yee around the girl when they repositioned the rig for a better firefighting position, said a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

It reported Christine Emmons, who is assigned to Station 2 at the airport, looked at the girl and concluded she was dead, and at least one other firefighter made the same mistaken judgment on site.

Ye was one of the three Chinese girls who died as a result of the tragedy and their families have retained a US law firm to seek compensation from the airline.

A notice on the website of Kreindler & Kreindler LLP on Monday said the law firm had been retained by the families of the three students "and US and foreign passengers who suffered serious personal injuries" in the crash of Asiana Flight 214.

Brian Alexander, a partner at Kreindler, told China Daily it was very important for the families to retain US lawyers who "have a complete understanding of the Montreal and Warsaw treaties that govern international flights".

"The survivability of the crash and the evacuation of the aircraft and the performance of rescue personnel will be evaluated as part of the NTSB investigation," he said.

"It clearly shows the families will take legal action against the airline in the United States," said Hao Junbo, a lawyer for all the students on the airplane authorized by the city government of Jiangshan, Zhejiang province, where they live.

Of 307 people onboard at the time of the crash, student Wang Linjia was killed instantly and her schoolmate Ye Mengyuan died after being run over by a rescue vehicle as it raced to the burning plane.

A third girl, Liu Yipeng, died in the intensive care unit of a local hospital six days later from injuries she suffered in the crash. They were all students of Jiangshan Middle School.

Another 182 passengers were injured.

Carrying the ashes of the three teenagers, 10 relatives of the deceased girls returned to their hometown of Jiangshan on Monday morning after flying with China Eastern Airlines from San Francisco and arriving at Shanghai Pudong International Airport early Sunday evening.

On Monday morning, the victims' ashes were placed in the Jiangshan Municipal Funeral Parlor.

Funerals and memorial services are scheduled for a later date, according to the Jiangshan government publicity office.

A farewell ceremony was held at a cemetery in San Francisco on July 24 and the bodies were cremated the following day.

Legal experts said they support the families' choice to file suits in the US to obtain the maximum compensation.

"According to the international convention, the plaintiff can choose to file a lawsuit at his or her permanent residence or the destination of the flight or the country of the air carrier. Compensation is usually based on per capita income where the lawsuit is filed," said Yi Shenghua, a Beijing lawyer from the Yingke Law Firm, adding that income levels in China, South Korea and the US differ greatly.

He said based on information his firm received, the carrier hopes to apply Chinese laws to the compensation agreement mainly because the amount would be lower in China, while some compensation requests are not supported by Chinese law.

Contact the writer at chenjia@chinadailyusa.com and zhouwenting@chinadaily.com.cn

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