One of three teenage victims from Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was killed by a fire truck that responded to the scene – and not from the impact of the plane crash, officials said Friday.
Ye Mengyuan, 16, survived the horrific landing and was alive when at least one specialized rig struck her on the runway at San Francisco International Airport, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said.
"Obviously, we are heartbroken. We're in the business of saving lives," said San Francisco Fire chief Joanne Hayes-White, apologizing for what she called "a tragic accident."
"It's difficult and very devastating news for all of us."
Mengyuan’s classmate and travel companion, identified by the Korean-based airline as 16-year-old Wang Linjia, was also killed in the July 6 crash. A third girl, a 15-year-old, died of her critical injuries six days later.
The victims were reportedly traveling in a group of 34 Chinese high school students and a teacher on their way to summer camp in California.
Another 180 people were injured, including two flight attendants who were ejected from a gaping hole at the back of the plane onto the runway.
Federal investigators believe the Boeing 777 came in too slow and too low and clipped the seawall on the runway as it landed. After its tail was ripped off, it spun around and eventually burst into flames.
Emergency crews sped to the runway to douse the jet in white foam and rescue passengers. Hayes-White said "every aspect" of the response is under investigation.
She said emergency workers had "risked their lives" to save people from the burning plane. "Many lives were saved on July 6," she said.
"We're really trying to support our members," she added. "Everyone is very emotional from this incident," she said.
The fire chief said her department has reached out to Mengyuan's family through the Chinese consulate and offered to meet with them.
It's not clear how the teen ended up on the runway or why the truck did not see her. She was on the ground when she was hit by one or two trucks, the coroner said.
An autopsy determined that she died from "multiple blunt injuries that are consistent with being run over by a motor vehicle."
"Our forensic examination revealed that she was still alive when she received those injuries," he said. It's unknown if she suffered any injuries from the actual crash.
Although the National Transportation Safety Board will not issue a report on the cause of the crash for months, 83 survivors have taken the first step toward suing the airline and the plane's manufacturer.