By Kate Mather
8:13 PM EDT, October 18, 2013
An attorney representing the family of the girl killed by an emergency vehicle after the Asiana Airlines crash said although first responders won't face criminal charges in the 16-year-old's death, his clients still plan legal action.
Anthony Tarricone told The Times on Friday he was "not the least bit surprised" that prosecutors declined to file criminal charges in the death of Ye Meng Yuan, one of three people killed after Asiana Airlines Flight 214 slammed into a San Francisco International Airport runway on July 6.
But although the actions of the first responders didn't merit criminal prosecution, Tarricone said, the girl's death was "completely avoidable."
"This was not the kind of event that should result in criminal charges against individual firefighters," Tarricone said. "I think it's obvious to all that it was a tragic accident, but it was an accident that never should have happened."
Ye was covered in foam -- but alive -- when a specialized emergency vehicle ran over her, officials said. It remains unclear how she ended up by the Boeing 777's left wing, where her body was found.
Tarricone said the first responders showed "seriously egregious conduct" in what he said was their failure to properly examine Ye and move her away from the jetliner.
The attorney said the girl's family "deserves a measure of justice," which is why they "certainly intend to pursue civil claims against the responsible parties."
Tarricone said Friday afternoon he had not yet spoken with Ye's family regarding the D.A.'s decision.
San Mateo County Dist. Atty. Stephen M. Wagstaffe announced Friday that after reviewing "numerous videos" and reports from coroner's officials, police officers, firefighters and other first responders, his office determined there was "no criminal culpability for any individual involved in the response to the airline crash."
Ye's death was a "tragic accident that did not involve any violation of our criminal laws," Wagstaffe said in a statement.
"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," the statement said.
"Our conclusion remains that it does not involve criminal liability in any manner," the statement said.
San Mateo County Coroner Robert J. Foucrault said Ye was alive on the tarmac when she was struck by a fire truck rushing to the crash site, suffering crushing injuries and internal hemorrhaging -- "multiple blunt injuries that are consistent with being run over by a motor vehicle."
Authorities believe Ye was struck by a specialized vehicle -- an aircraft rescue firefighting truck, known as an ARFF -- that can spray fire-retardant foam while speeding toward a burning plane.
In a statement issued Friday afternoon, San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White again called Ye's death "a tragic accident." The chief said she remained "extremely proud of the valiant efforts" of first responders she said were faced with "extraordinary circumstances."
"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," she said.
Hayes-White said her department "remains vigilant in exploring areas in our operations, strategies and tactics where improvements could be made." She declined to comment further, citing the National Transportation Safety Board's ongoing investigation into the crash.
Three people -- Ye and two of her high school classmates -- were killed after the Boeing 777 clipped a sea wall and slammed into a runway at SFO. More than 180 of the 307 passengers and crew members aboard were injured.
Ye was part of a group of Chinese high school students on their way to West Valley Christian Church and School in the San Fernando Valley for a three-week summer camp.
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