No charges over death of US plane crash survivor
LOS ANGELES - An American firefighter who accidentally ran over and killed a Chinese teenager after a plane crash at San Francisco airport will not face charges, US prosecutors said Friday.
They highlighted the "remarkable" efforts of firefighters who responded to the July 6 crash of an Asiana Airlines plane, "exposing themselves to potentially life-threatening circumstances."
Ye Mengyuan, 16, had been rescued alive from the Asiana plane and placed near one wing.
She was run over by a fire truck, which lacked infrared equipment, which could have spotted her under a layer of fire retardant foam.
Ye was one of three people killed in the disaster, which left more than 180 injured after the South Korean airline's Boeing 777 crashed on landing in San Francisco from Seoul.
Prosecutors launched an investigation into whether to bring charges against the firefighter driving the vehicle, reportedly a 49-year-old female veteran, although she has not been officially identified.
"I have concluded that there is no criminal culpability for any individual involved in the response to the airline crash," San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
"The death of 16-year-old Le Mengyuan was a tragic accident that did not involve any violation of our criminal laws," he added.
Videos taken before the incident showed Ye in a fetal position, and several emergency workers walked past her apparently not aware she needed help, as they scrambled to rescue other survivors of the Asiana Flight 214 plane.
The firefighter involved had been away getting food when the disaster erupted, and therefore jumped into a reserve vehicle and drove it solo towards the burning aircraft.
Normally at least two firefighters should be in each vehicle, except in extreme emergencies.
The passenger jet had 307 people on board, including 16 crew members. More than 120 people escaped unharmed. The accident was the carrier's first passenger jet crash in 20 years.
According to preliminary findings from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the plane crashed because it was flying too low and too slowly as it approached the runway.
The tail of the aircraft broke off as the plane clipped a seawall short of the runway, skidding out of control and quickly catching fire.
Wagstaffe said Friday that investigators had looked at police and first responder reports, as well as coroner's findings and "the content of the numerous videos of events at the scene following the airliner crash."
"The remarkable efforts of the San Francisco firefighters and police officers in responding to this very chaotic scene and in attempting to save hundreds of lives while exposing themselves to potentially life-threatening circumstances were considered in our review."
"Having arrived at the conclusion that there is no criminal liability for anyone involved ... my office deems this case closed at this time," he added.
A group of 83 passengers filed a lawsuit in July seeking millions from Boeing and warned that their claim may be expanded to include Asiana later.
Other groups of passengers have reportedly filed separate suits in the US.
In August, Asiana Airlines offered an initial compensation payment worth $10,000 to all surviving passengers on board the plane.
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