San Francisco firefighter files defamation claim in Asiana crash case

This post has been updated. See the note below for details.

A San Francisco firefighter who responded to the July 6 crash landing of an Asiana Airlines jetliner has filed a legal claim saying the city's fire department falsely identified her to the media as the person who killed a teenage crash survivor.

Elyse Duckett, a 25-year veteran of the San Francisco Fire Department, filed the claim with the city, charging that the department tried to protect the firefighter who ran over 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Ye, a Chinese high school student traveling to a Southern California summer camp, was alive when she was struck by an emergency vehicle responding to the burning Boeing 777 after the plane clipped a sea wall and slammed into a runway at San Francisco International Airport, officials have said.

Video from a firefighter’s helmet camera shows that at least one rescuer saw someone on the ground outside the airplane and warned a colleague, but two firetrucks subsequently ran over the girl, according to the Associated Press.

Duckett’s vehicle was the second to hit Ye, who was by then obscured by flame-retardant foam, according to the Chronicle.

Duckett’s claim says Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and other department brass told her “that she needed to admit to the incident and take responsibility” for Ye’s death, the Chronicle reported. Duckett said her bosses insisted that she take responsibility despite video showing that another vehicle “had hit and killed” the girl.

Duckett “believes that her identity, contact information and involvement were disclosed” to reporters by the fire department and that the department’s actions constituted “a cover-up,” her attorney, Eduardo Roy, told the Chronicle.

Duckett is seeking at least $300,000 in damages. She has accused the department of discriminating against her because she is black and a lesbian, the Chronicle reported.

Ye was one of three passengers killed in the crash. More than 180 of the 307 passengers and crew members aboard Flight 214 were injured. 

[Updated, 1:39 p.m. PST Jan. 28: In a statement to The Times, San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said the department is currently reviewing the claim.

The fire chief, meanwhile, "has been and, continues to be, extremely proud of all of the members of the San Francisco Fire Department who responded to the Asiana Airlines incident, especially under the extraordinary circumstances that they were faced with," the statement said.]


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