July 9, 2013

Police probe whether fire vehicle killed passenger

It appears the 16-year-old Chinese girl, who was ejected onto the runway, may have been run over by a vehicle racing to the crash scene of Asiana Flight 214.

The Associated Press

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An unidentified family member of the two girls killed during the Asiana Airlines plane crash on Saturday, cries at the Asiana Airlines counter as she and other family members check infer the flight to San Francisco at the Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, China, Monday, July 8, 2013. The Asiana Airlines flight crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, killing at least two people, injuring dozens of others and forcing passengers to jump down the emergency inflatable slides to safety as flames tore through the plane. The flight originated in Shanghai, China, and stopped over in Seoul, South Korea, before coming to San Francisco, airport officials said. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

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In this undated photo made available Monday, July 8, 2013, Ye Mengyuan, at left and Wang Linjia, right, pose for photos with other classmates in the classroom in Jiangshan city in eastern China's Zhejiang province. Chinese state media and Asiana Airlines have identified the two victims of the Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco International Airport girls as Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, students in Zhejiang, an affluent coastal province in eastern China. (AP Photo)

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He said he made the decision to hold off independently and that neither city officials nor federal accident investigators had asked him for a postponement.

Chinese state media and Asiana have identified the girls as Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, students at Jiangshan Middle School in Zhejiang, an affluent coastal province in eastern China.

They were part of a group of 29 students and five teachers from the school who were heading to a summer camps in Southern California, according to education authorities in China.

On Monday, San Francisco's Chinese Consul General Yuan Nansheng expressed his condolences to the other students in the group and gave similar sentiments to family members after they arrived at the airport later in the evening. He reassured them that the consulate would do whatever necessary to provide assistance to them.

Meanwhile, firefighters and police officers on Monday gave their first accounts of what they encountered in the first minutes after the Saturday's crash.

Most of the 307 people on board had exited the crippled craft before firefighters arrived, but four passengers were still trapped in the back.

Three firefighters and two police officers, who did not have safety gear, rushed onto the plane to help evacuate trapped passengers, including one who was trapped under a collapsed bulkhead. They had gotten everyone off the craft except one elderly man who was in his seat, moaning and unable to move.

"We were running out of time," San Francisco Fire Department Lt. Dave Monteverdi recalled. "The smoke was starting to get thicker and thicker. So we had no choice. We stood him up and amazingly, he started shuffling his feet. ... We were able to get him out and he was pretty much the last person off the plane."

Monteverdi and his two colleagues boarded the plane by charging up the front, left emergency chute that most of the passengers had already used to exit the burning craft.

"If he can do it, I can do it," Fire Department Lt. Chrissy Emmons said she told herself before clambering up the chute after Monteverdi.

As the firefighters made their way to the back of the plane, they saw San Francisco police officer Jim Cunningham racing up the aisle toward the cockpit without safety gear.

Cunningham said he was just finishing a patrol of an unoccupied airport building when he heard a fellow officer calmly report over the radio that a Boeing 777 had crashed. Cunningham said he screamed at the driver of an ambulance that happened to be nearby to follow him onto the runway where he could see the smoking wreckage.

When he arrived, he and another officer tossed their sheathed knives up to crew members yelling from the door that they needed to cut passengers from their seatbelts. Just then, the officers noticed jet fuel spewing from one of the wings "like it was coming out of a fire hose."

That's when Cunningham and police Lt. Gaetano Caltagirone made the decision to enter the burning plane through the back of the aircraft, which had a large opening since the tail had broken off.

The two helped clear debris out of the way and helped carry passengers off the burning plane. Cunningham even recovered two iPhones, figuring that "worried loved ones" would be trying to contact their owners.

Once everyone was off the plane, Cunningham required about 15 minutes of oxygen treatment. It was then that his wife, home with their 18-month-old daughter, called.

"I told the paramedic to answer and tell her I was all right," he said. But Cunningham said he could hear her voice rising when told that he was undergoing oxygen treatment, so he took the phone to tell her he was fine.

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Additional Photos

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This photo provided by the National Transportation Safety Board, on Tuesday shows Investigator in Charge Bill English, foreground, and Chairman Deborah Hersman discussing the progress of the investigation into the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco.

AP

  


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