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Asiana plane crash victim may have been hit by rescue vehicle

Coroner investigating whether one of two Chinese schoolgirls died in ‘secondary incident’

  • Guardian News & Media Ltd
  • Published: 19:10 July 8, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: EPA
  • A photo provided by the National Transportation Safety Board shows investigators at the scene of the Asiana Flight 214 crash at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, USA 07 July 2013.

San Francisco: A coroner examining the San Francisco plane crash that claimed the lives of two passengers is investigating whether one of the two survived the accident but was then hit by a rescue vehicle rushing to the burning aircraft.

Coroner Robert Foucrault said senior fire department officials notified him and his staff that one of the 16-year-olds may have been struck on the runaway.

Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, both from Zhejiang in eastern China, were killed when an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 explode into flames after a crash landing at the San Francisco international airport on Saturday.

There were 307 passengers on board the flight from Seoul, South Korea, and dozens were seriously injured after the aircraft apparently hit a sea wall, causing its tail to be ripped off.

An autopsy is expected to be completed on Monday that will determine whether the Chinese teenager’s death was caused by injuries sustained in the crash or a secondary incident.

Foucrault said one of the bodies was found on the tarmac near where the plane’s tail broke off when it hit the runway, while the other was found on the left side of the plane about nine metres (30ft) away from where the aircraft stopped.

San Francisco fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said: “One of the deceased did have injuries consistent with those of having been run over by a vehicle. Many agencies were on the field yesterday.”

The news comes after it emerged that the pilot landing flight 214 had only 43 hours of experience flying Boeing 777s and was flying into San Francisco for the first time at the controls of this aircraft type, according to a spokeswoman for Asiana Airlines. Lee Kang-kook was in training to fly the 777 when the crash occurred.

Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyo-min told the Los Angeles Times the pilot had been flying since 1994 and was a “very experienced pilot” with nearly 10,000 flying hours on other types of planes, including Boeing 747s, 737s and Airbus 320s.

Investigators are examining whether the airport or plane’s equipment could have failed.

At a news conference on Sunday, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Deborah Hersman, said the aircraft’s speed was below the scheduled 137 knots (158mph) as it approached the runway but showed no indication of being in trouble until seven seconds before impact.

The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder revealed there was a call to increase the speed about two seconds before the impact. The pilot then requested to abort the landing and “go around”, added Hersman.

“We have to take another look at the raw data and corroborate it with radar and air traffic information to make sure we have a very precise speed,” she said. “But again, we are not talking about a few knots here or there. We’re talking about a significant amount of speed below 137.”

Asked why this may have happened, Hersman said: “It is too early to rule anything out.”

US officials also confirmed that a navigation system designed to help pilots make safe landings during bad weather was turned off for maintenance at the airport on Saturday, which was clear and sunny.

Footage of the scene showed debris strewn across the runway and smoke pouring from the aeroplane, as fire crews attempted to get the blaze under control. The dead were heading for a summer camp in the US and were part of a group of 70 Chinese students and teachers on board. Other Chinese citizens were among the passengers that include South Korean, US, Canadian, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese and French nationals.

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