Airport boosts training after 777 crash

SAN FRANCISCO — Firefighters who work at San Francisco International Airport are receiving additional training on how to respond to airplane crashes following the Asiana Airlines accident in which a teenage girl was run over and killed by two emergency vehicles while lying wounded on the runway.

Commanding officers from the San Francisco Fire Department’s airport division will receive 40 to 80 hours of advanced instruction next year at the Fire Training Research Center at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday. Instructors from the center already have provided basic disaster response training in San Francisco to 80 of the department’s firefighters and paramedics.

Federal rules require all rank-and-file firefighters assigned to U.S. airports to have disaster response training. Before the July 6 crash, the San Francisco Fire Department had its own in-house training program, but the three commanders in charge of the Asiana crash had never undergone it, according to the Chronicle.

“There are many lessons to be learned here,” Assistant Deputy Chief Dale Carnes, who oversees the department’s airport division, said during a National Transportation Safety Board hearing on Wednesday where he announced the changes.

One of the three Chinese teenagers who died in the accident was a 16-year-old girl who survived the crash but became covered in firefighting foam and was run over by two fire trucks as she lay wounded on the runway.

Documents released Wednesday revealed that Ye Meng Yuan was struck twice — once by a fire rig spraying foam and again 11 minutes later by a second truck that was turning around to fetch water.

Several firefighters told investigators they had seen a body that would turn out to be Yuan’s when they first arrived at the crash site but concluded the person was dead without checking for a heartbeat or pulse. An autopsy revealed that Yuan was alive before the vehicles hit her.

Asked during the safety board hearing to elaborate on the lessons the accident had provided, Carnes said the department would develop a better system for keeping track of immobile disaster victims.

“We are developing strategies to lessen the potential for firefighting vehicles impacting accident victims,” he said.

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