A 25-year female veteran of the SFFD who was "falsely" accused of being the driver of the fire rig that ran over and ultimately killed 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan after last July's Asiana Airlines crash is now fighting back saying that the department pointed the finger at her in order to protect the man who was responsible for the girl's death.
49-year-old Elyse Duckett says she became the scapegoat during the ongoing investigation into the girl's death, and that she was discriminated against because she is African American and a lesbian. In a claim filed this week, Duckett's attorney states that KGO/ABC7 reporter Dan Noyes was fed her name by an informant in the department in late July 2013, leading to his "breaking" the story of the single firefighter responsible. SFist subsequently posted details that Noyes reported, and some subsequent helmet-cam footage showed the scene of the crash after the point at which Duckett arrived. That footage also showed another rig in the area, Rescue 10, driving away from the scene.
As Matier and Ross are reporting, examination of the footage suggests that it was another driver, firefighter Jimmy Yee, who was manning Rescue 10, who may have been the first to run over the body of the girl, and to point out the girl's body (presumed dead) to other firefighters. The coroner's report suggested that she was actually run over twice, the first time possibly by Rescue 10, who arrived first on the scene.
Ye was injured but alive when she was pulled from the wreckage Flight 214, and the original narrative, reported by Noyes, suggested she'd been obscured by fire-retardant foam before Duckett's late-arriving rig ran over her. That narrative was quickly confused, however, with video footage showing Rescue 10 and the body on the ground before foam was sprayed, and Duckett's claim now is that she was the victim of a cover-up by the department. She's seeking $300,000 in damages. Though she's been in counseling since August because of the incident, she is back at work, and she says that after the city found out about her lawsuit she was "subjected to threats and interrogation over the phone" by fire chief Joanne Hayes-White and the deputy chief of operations, Mark Gonzales.
We will say that the Noyes story seemed a bit pre-packaged when he broke it last July, and that subsequent coverage of the events never again mentioned Duckett's name. Nevertheless, her name was attached to the death in press around the world, from the NY Daily News and elsewhere, ever since the event, and it will be interesting to see now whether her name will be cleared as the SFFD gets embarrassed by all this all over again.