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Firefighter not charged in death after SFO crash

  • In this July 6, 2013, file photo, firefighters, lower center, stand by a tarpaulin sheet covering the body of a Chinese teen struck by a fire truck during the emergency response to the crash of Asiana Flight 214 at the San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

SAN FRANCISCO — The firefighter who ran over and killed a survivor of a commercial air disaster in San Francisco this summer will not face criminal charges.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe announced Friday that his office was closing its investigation of the incident without charging the firefighter with any crime.

San Francisco 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 in a prepared statement that 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.

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