SAN FRANCISCO -- The aftermath of the crash of Asiana Flight 214 turned grimmer Friday as San Francisco police confirmed for the first time that one of the victims was run over by a fire truck, and hospital officials said a third passenger has died.
A 16-year-old passenger lying among the wreckage was covered in fire-retardant foam on the damaged runway when she was run over by a fire truck at low speed, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said Friday. The San Mateo County Coroner's Office has yet to determine whether Ye Mengyuan of China was alive -- or already dead -- when that happened.
San Francisco International Airport officials, meanwhile, opened Runway 28 Left on Friday, two days ahead of schedule, finally restoring the airport to full operation. It had been closed since the Boeing 777 slammed into the runway sea wall Saturday while trying to land on a flight from Seoul, South Korea.
"Having one of four runways closed, it's like having a lane closed on a freeway," said airport spokesman Doug Yakel. "It's going to back up traffic."
On Friday, a child whom officials did not identify died at San Francisco General Hospital. The child had been in pediatric intensive care since the crash.
"Her parents have asked that we reveal no further information at this time," said Dr. Margaret Knudson, who is chief of surgery. "We will respect their wishes while they grieve."
In the crash, the plane's tail was sheared off and three flight attendants were launched out the back. The impact flung boulders from the sea wall down the runway as the Boeing 777 careened into a 360-degree spin before coming to rest. A flight attendant spotted a fire outside the plane and passengers were evacuated. Most had escaped by the time a second fire broke out inside the cabin.
Of 307 people aboard, two were found dead on the runway. Another 182 were taken to hospitals, including dozens with serious injuries.
Following the crash, 75 to 100 flights were canceled at SFO, Yakel said. Passengers described flight disruptions and confusion in California and around the country that lasted for days.
Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board arrived hours after the crash to begin an investigation. The NTSB said it will try to expedite its probe, which normally takes a year to 18 months to determine who or what was responsible.
The announcement that Ye Mengyuan was run over by one of the vehicles racing to respond to the crash echoes a similar incident 40 years ago.
In April 1973, a P-3C Orion anti-submarine patrol collided with a NASA Convair 990 four-engine jet over Moffett Field, raining debris over Sunnyvale Golf Course.
Sixteen people were killed and the lone survivor, Petty Officer 3rd Class Bruce N. Mallibert, was presumed dead at the scene. A golfer had covered him in a parachute when Mallibert was then run over by a fire truck, according to witness accounts on a website recounting the crash.
Mallibert recovered from his injuries.
In the case of the victim from the Asiana crash, police said San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault has not officially determined the cause of death and declined to comment further. Foucrault has said that it could be two to three weeks before he releases his findings.
The initial commander in charge of the emergency response, San Francisco Fire Capt. Anthony Robinson, spoke out Friday, describing the scene he found on arriving within minutes of the crash as "controlled chaos."
"You've got a plane broken in pieces on, fire," he told this newspaper. "I'm used to chaos, but I'm not used to a 777 crashing at the San Francisco Airport."
One of his roles as the initial incident commander was to set the distance for arriving emergency vehicles.
"No less than 30 vehicles, ambulances, fire engines, mobile units, commands, helicopters, are all parking from my point, behind me," he said. "I have to choose a safe point where everyone else is going to park."
As he took command of the scene, Robinson said emergency vehicles, including two rescue units, were already on the scene and asking for more assistance for survivors.
"They were there probably in a little over a minute," Robinson said of Station 2, dubbed the "crash house" because of its proximity to the runways. "They got there fast. They were there before I got there, and I got there fast."
Robinson did not address the possibility that a fire truck ran over a victim.
Early Friday, salvage crews began cutting the charred Boeing 777 into two sections. As they did, smoke was reported at 3:30 a.m., Yakel said.
"They were removing the rear section from the forward section that had the wings still attached," Yakel said. "We don't know the ultimate cause but we suspect it was the cutting into metal, which caused a lot of friction. No one ever saw a fire."
A firefighting crew was on hand during the removal and quickly tended to the smoke, Yakel said.
Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakaso.