777 Crash Victim was Alive when Hit by Fire Truck

July 19, 2013
A helmet cam shows the foam-covered location where the rig drove over the girl who was buried in as much as a foot of foam at that time.

July 19--The 16-year-old girl who was run over by a vehicle after the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was alive when she was hit, two sources close to the investigation into her death told The Chronicle on Thursday night.

San Mateo County coroner's investigators determined that Ye Meng Yuan died of blunt force trauma as a result of being hit by a vehicle, said the sources, who spoke on condition they not be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case. It's not known what vehicle hit the girl, but most rigs on the scene were San Francisco fire trucks stationed at the airport.

Coroner Robert Foucrault, reached late Thursday, would not comment on the results of an autopsy his office performed on Ye. He said he would announce his conclusions during a news conference Friday.

San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and a spokesman for Police Chief Greg Suhr both said Thursday that they had not been provided definitive findings and could not comment.

Foucrault said he met Thursday with the families of all three victims who died as a result of the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 to notify them of autopsy results.

That Ye was alive when she was hit by a San Francisco airport fire rig deepens the mystery surrounding her death. If she had been ejected from the plane during the crash, her injuries would not have been fatal, based on autopsy findings that a vehicle caused her trauma.

No witnesses have come forward to say they saw Ye alive in the area where her body was eventually found, the coroner said. The National Transportation Safety Board has been interviewing passengers and first responders to the crash to try to determine what happened to Ye.

Body found near wing

Ye was sitting in the back of the plane, according to the safety board, but her body was found near the left wing. It's unknown if she was thrown from the jet when it hit a seawall at the end of the runway, breaking off its tail. Some other casualties who were sitting in the back -- including Ye's friend Wang Lin Jia, one of the two other girls who died -- were found behind the aircraft. The third girl killed, Liu Yi Peng, 15, was found in her seat on the airplane and died six days after the crash.

Ye's body, covered in fire-fighting foam, was found at the edge of a paved path near the left wing sometime before 12:20 p.m., the time her death was reported to dispatchers, the Fire Department said. That was 53 minutes after the crash.

"I don't know how she got off the plane. I don't think the NTSB knows, I talked to them today," Foucrault said Thursday.

Two photographs taken by crash survivor Eugene Rah show passengers outside the plane near the left wing, apparently after all able-bodied survivors had fled the burning aircraft. Ye's body is not visible in those pictures, nor are passengers gathered where she was found.

Fire Department video

According to sources, a Fire Department helmet-mounted video shows the foam-covered location where the rig drove over Ye, who was buried in as much as a foot of foam at that time. The video then shows a firefighter pointing to the spot where the body crossed the path of a vehicle.

However, because the body was covered with foam, it is unclear whether that was the first time a rig had run over the victim. Foucrault would not say whether the victim had been repeatedly crushed, only that her injuries were extensive.

Ye was flying from China to visit Stanford University and then attend a three-week summer camp at a Christian school in Southern California. Her family has been in the Bay Area since last week, awaiting the coroner's findings on what killed her. Foucrault said the families are anxious to take the victims back to China for burial.

Jaxon Van Derbeken is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: [email protected] Twitter: @jvanderbeken

Copyright 2013 - San Francisco Chronicle

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