No charges filed in 777 rescue death

SAN FRANCISCO — The firefighter who ran over and killed a survivor of a commercial air disaster in San Francisco was unaware of the girl’s death at the time and will not be charged with any crimes, a prosecutor announced Friday.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said firefighter Elyse Duckett was responding to the burning Boeing 777 when the truck she was driving rolled over Ye Mengyuan. Investigators believe Ye was laying prone on the tarmac and covered in firefighting foam.

“This was a dramatically chaotic situation,” Wagstaffe said of absolving Duckett of any criminal responsibility. “It was not a tough conclusion to reach.”

Wagstaffe said he arrived at his decision after reviewing police, fire and other first responder reports, the coroner’s investigation and numerous videos of events at the scene. Ye, 16, was a Chinese student visiting the United States with classmates.

Wagstaffe said some of the videos show the girl on the ground outside the plane before the area is covered in foam. Other videos have shown Duckett’s rig later driving over the same area after it was covered in firefighting foam.

San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White declined to discuss Ye’s death other than to call it a “tragic accident.”

Hayes-White said firefighters likely saved the lives of many critically wounded passengers scattered about the tarmac and still trapped aboard the Asiana Airlines flight that crashed landed July 6.

“If not for the professional rescue, triage, treatment and transport operations that were conducted by all involved agencies, it is likely that there would have been a greater loss of life,” Hayes-White said.

In all, 304 of the 307 people aboard the plane survived the July 6 crash.

Ye and a friend were seated at the back of the plane that came in too low and too slow, clipping its landing gear and tail on a rocky seawall just short of the runway.

It was unclear how Ye got from the airplane to the spot where she died. Investigators believe she was down on the ground and not standing during the aftermath of the plane crash.

Anthony Tarricone, an attorney for Ye’s family, said he was not surprised criminal charges were not filed.

“It’s really not the subject of criminal prosecution,” he said. “It’s properly the subject of civil action, which we intend to prosecute.” He said he had not been in touch with Ye’s family about the District Attorney’s Office’s decision.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. The National Transportation Safety Board has said it did not find any mechanical problems with the plane during a preliminary review.

But the plane’s pilots, as well as the airline, have raised the possibility that a key device that controls the Boeing 777’s speed may have malfunctioned.

Ye and her close friend, 16-year-old Wang Linjia, who also died, were students at Jiangshan Middle School in Zhejiang, an affluent coastal province in eastern China, Chinese state media has reported. They were part of a group of students and teachers from the school who were heading to summer camp in Southern California.

The other victim, 15-year-old Liu Yipeng, later died at a hospital.

More in Local News

These little piggies stay home

Norman, who was spotted last week in Everett, is part of a trio kept as pets by the “pig whisperer.”

Leanne Smiciklas, the friendly lady who served customers of her husband’s Old School Barbeque from a schoolbus parked in front of the Reptile Zoo east of Monroe, has died at 64. (Dan Bates / Herald file)
Without her, beloved BBQ hotspot in Monroe can’t go on

Leanne Smiciklas, who ran the now-closed Old School BBQ along Highway 2 with her husband, died.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s top images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Mill Creek’s Donna Michelson ready to retire at year’s end

The city’s longest-serving council member says she has every intention of staying involved.

Smokey Point Behavioral Hospital accepting adolescent patients

The facility is the first mental heallth unit in the county to offer in-patient services for children.

Within an hour, 2 planes crash-land at Paine Field

One simply landed hard and went off the end of a runway. Another crash involved unextended landing gear.

Ian Terry / The Herald Westbound cars merge from Highway 204 and 20th Street Southeast onto the trestle during the morning commute on Thursday, March 30 in Lake Stevens. Photo taken on 03302017
Pay a toll on US 2 trestle? 10,000 say no on social media

A GOP lawmaker’s chart shows theoretical toll rates of up to $6.30 to cross the trestle one way.

Teen murder suspect captured — then escapes and is recaptured

The 16-year-old is one of at least three young suspects in the shooting death of an Everett woman.

Most Read