The Asiana Airlines jet that crashed at San Francisco International Airport in July. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The Asiana Airlines jet that crashed at San Francisco International Airport in July. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Phil Matier and Andy Ross are reporting the latest twist in the tragic aftermath of last July’s plane crash at SFO: The firefighter originally identified as the driver responsible for running over a survivor of the crash has filed a defamation claim with the city.

According to Matier & Ross, the claim filed by firefighter Elyse Duckett accused the department of discriminating against her because she is African American and a lesbian. The goal of department supervisors, she said, was “to protect the firefighter who was actually responsible for the death of Ye Meng Yuan.”

Ye was one of three teenage girls who died after Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed while attempting to land at SFO last July 6. She was injured in the crash and was lying close to the plane when firefighters arrived to fight a fire that had erupted in the damaged aircraft. In a story earlier this month, Chronicle reporter Jaxon Van Derbeken recounted video evidence that shows how two San Francisco Fire Department vehicles ran over Ye.

The first vehicle was reportedly driven by a firefighter named Jimmy Yee. Duckett was driving the second vehicle. The San Mateo County coroner later reported that Ye, 16, died of multiple blunt force injuries consistent with being run over by a vehicle.

The Matier & Ross account Duckett’s claim says:

… When Duckett showed up for a meeting with Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and other brass on July 22, the claim says, she was told “that she needed to admit to the incident and take responsibility” for the girl’s death.

Duckett told her bosses that “there was a video showing that Rescue 10 (reportedly driven by Yee) was the vehicle that had hit and killed” the girl. “Notwithstanding, they continued to insist that Elyse Duckett was responsible for her death.”

Later that day, according to her attorney, Eduardo Roy, Duckett received repeated phone calls from KGO TV reporter Dan Noyes wanting to talk to her about the crash.

Roy said Duckett “believes that her identity, contact information and involvement were disclosed to Dan Noyes by one or more individuals” in the Fire Department.

Three days later, the station ran a story “falsely identifying” Duckett as the driver responsible for killing Ye, according to the claim. Her name promptly was picked up by other media around the world, the claim says.

Such claims often lead to lawsuits. Duckett is seeking $300,000 in damages.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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