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Wednesday 27 August 2014

Questions over plane victim's death

Published 09/07/2013 | 06:03

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People look towards the wreckage of the plane that crashed upon landing at San Francisco International Airport (AP)
The wreckage of the Asiana Flight 214 airplane after it crashed at the San Francisco International Airport (AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A cloud of smoke after an Asiana Airlines flight crashed while landing at San Francisco airport (Wei Yeh/AP)

A teenage girl may have escaped a plane crash in San Francisco, only to be run over and killed by a rescue vehicle, the authorities believe.

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The Chinese girl, along with a classmate, were the two fatalities from Asiana Flight 214, with everyone else on board surviving the crash landing.

Federal and local officials have addressed the possibility that she might have been killed accidentally on the runway as the first firefighters raced to the scene of a wrecked, smoking airliner.

"One of our fire apparatus may have come into contact with one of our two victims," Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said. "I assure you, we are looking closely at this."

Findings of what caused the 16-year-old's death - the plane crash, the fire truck, or both - may not come for several weeks.

A firefighter first reported to a superior on Saturday that a passenger who was on the ground roughly 30 feet from the wreckage and near the escape slide may have been run over as fire crews were shifting from dousing the flames to taking victims to hospital, officials said.

Police, FBI agents, the coroner and other officials were notified after the firefighter at the scene reported his concerns, officials said. The drivers of the first five trucks to respond to the emergency were given drug and alcohol tests, which they passed.

Airport video surveillance footage reviewed by federal accident investigators proved inconclusive, National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah Hersman said.

"It is a very serious issue and we want to understand it," she said. "We want to make sure we have all the facts before we reach conclusions."

The job of gathering those facts - including determining whether the evidence shows that the girl was hit by the truck and if she was still alive when it happened - has fallen in large part to San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault. Mr Foucrault originally planned to release a preliminary cause of death for each of the victims on Monday, but decided to wait until he could do a broader inquiry that will include reviewing written information from the public safety agencies that responded to the crash, audio dispatch files and perhaps interviews.

Press Association

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