San Francisco Settles With Firefighter Wrongly Accused Of Running Over Victim

The San Francisco firefighter who was initially thought to have run over and killed a crash victim at the scene of an Asiana Airlines crash in 2013, has settled her suit against the city.

Elyse Duckett’s suit accused fire officials of publically identifying her has the person driving the crash truck that ran over and killed Ye Meng Yuan on July 6, 2013 in the aftermath of the crash of Asiana Flight 214. Duckett claimed the department’s brass deliberately sought to blame her to divert attention from other mistakes that the department made.

From the original complaint:

  • After the Asiana flight 214 crash at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013, the San Francisco Fire Department (“SFFD”) … came under intense national and international scrutiny.
  • A primary focus of that scrutlny was the circumstances surrounding the death of a 16-year-old-girl, Ye Meng Yuan, after early reports that she was killed when run over by a fire truck responding to the crash.
  • As questions about SFFD leadership and training intensified, the brass attempted to shift blame and scapegoat an individual firefighter to minimize and downplay broader failures within the SFFD.
  • The sacrificial lamb selected was 24-year veteran firefighter Elyse Duckett, a lesbian and woman of color who helped pioneer desegregation efforts in the SFFD.
  • Despite having video evidence that Ye Meng Yuan was first blanketed in fomn and then run over by another vehicle, the SFFD attempted to pin the blame for Ye Meng Yuan’s death solely on Elyse Duckett.
  • SFFD brass, including Chief of the Department Joanne Hayes-White, Deputy Chief of Operations Mark Gonzales, and Airport Chief Dale Carnes subjected Elyse Duckett to surprise interrogation, misrepresented evidence regarding the crash and its aftermath, accused Plaintiff of killing Ye Meng Yuan, pressured Plaintiff to take sole responsibility, and committed numerous violations of her procedural rights.

The settlement was apparently reached last November, and is scheduled to be approved by the Board of Supervisors in coming weeks. It calls for the city to pay Duckett $250,000.

Here is more on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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