SAN FRANCISCO -- It could be "two to three weeks" before it's known whether one of the two teenage girls killed in the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was run over by an emergency vehicle that had raced to the disaster site, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said Monday afternoon.
"This is a very high-profile case, and we want review everything carefully and make sure we're right," Foucrault added. "We want to make sure all the I's are dotted and T's are crossed. We don't want to come out with preliminary findings that might not end up being accurate."
Earlier Monday, San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and Assistant Deputy Chief Dale Carnes both had acknowledged at a briefing that a 16-year-old schoolgirl from China could have been struck by a rescue vehicle Saturday as first-responders arrived upon a chaotic scene at the San Francisco International Airport crash site.
"There was a possibility one of the two fatalities might have been contacted by one of our apparatus at an unknown point during the incident," Carnes said.
Foucrault had said on Sunday that he hoped his office would have autopsy results early this week that could determine if the girl died in the plane crash, or if she survived and then was killed after being run over. The teen, Foucrault said, was found about 30 feet from the wrecked aircraft.
Ye Mengtuan and Wang Linjia, who were part of a youth group visiting colleges including Stanford and attending a Southern California church summer camp, perished when the Boeing 777 jetliner approached the airport at too slow a speed and clipped the seawall just in front of the runway. They were the only two fatalities among the 307 passengers and crew aboard the plane.
It's not known which girl might have been hit by the responding rescue vehicle.
Deborah Hersman, the chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, called it "a very serious issue, and we want to understand it." Federal investigators, she added at a separate briefing Monday, had reviewed surveillance video at SFO. But they had been unable to draw any conclusions so far.
The other girl was discovered on the tarmac near where the plane's tail was sheared off in the crash. Both had been sitting near the rear of the plane.
Carnes said he was told of the possible accident involving the girl "approximately half to two-thirds of the way through the incident," after passengers had been rescued from the plane and the fire was extinguished. The San Francisco Police Department and FBI quickly were informed, Carnes said, and then the coroner's office was contacted.
Hayes-White told the Los Angeles Times on Monday that each of the five apparatus operators who arrived at the crash site had passed screening tests for drug and alcohol as part of the investigation.
"As you can imagine, it's a very dynamic environment dealing with an active aircraft fire and trying to rescue somewhere in the realm of 300 victims," Carnes said.
Meanwhile, the camp program at West Valley Christian School in the San Fernando Valley has been canceled as the rest of the 34 students and chaperones will return to China.
At a San Jose hotel on Monday, Yuan Nansheng, the Chinese consul general in San Francisco, met with about 60 students and 10 teachers who were part of three groups aboard the plane.
"The consul general has expressed his condolences to the students," said Wang Chuan, the consulate spokesman. "He encouraged them to be brave and optimistic. They are still very young, and even though they have suffered such a big tragedy ... they have a very bright future."
Edward Ngai, Robert Salonga and Dan Nakaso contributed to this report. Contact Mark Emmons at 408-920-5745. Follow him at Twitter.com/markedwinemmons.