A teenage girl who was run over by an emergency response vehicle after Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed at San Francisco International Airport was alive when she was hit, authorities announced on Friday.
San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said at a press conference that the 16-year-old girl, Ye Mengyuan, died of blunt force trauma.
The cause of death, he said, "is listed as multiple blunt injuries that are consistent with being run over by a motor vehicle."
"Those injuries she received, she was alive at the time," Foucrault said.
Although the autopsy did not determine how many times Ye was hit, or which vehicle ran over the girl, authorities believe it was a large rig from the San Francisco Fire Department that responded when the jetliner crashed into the runway and caught on fire on July 6, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
"My understanding is that ... she was on the ground when our rigs, one rig or possibly two, made contact with her," San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White told reporters at a press conference, according to ABC News.
Hayes-White added that officials have reached out to Ye's family through the Chinese consulate and have asked to meet with her family in person to apologize.
"Obviously, this is very difficult news for us. We're heartbroken," Hayes-White said. "We're in the business of saving lives."
The Boeing 777 was far below its targeted landing speed and nearly stalled before it hit a seawall near the edge of the runway.
The crash sent more than 100 people to local hospitals and claimed the lives of two other Chinese teens. Wang Linjia, 17, was also found dead in the aftermath of the crash, and 15-year-old Liu Yipeng died nearly a week after the crash, due to injuries she sustained.
The coroner's announcement on Friday drew more attention to unclear details surrounding Ye's death. The city's police department is investigating her death and how it could have been prevented.
"I want to assure you that every aspect of our response that day is currently under review," Hayes-White said.
The teenager's body was found near the plane's left wing, buried under foam that emergency responders sprayed to put out the fire on the plane, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee issued a statement Friday saying he was "profoundly saddened" by the vehicle's involvement in the teen's death, and offered his condolences to her family, as well as the families of the other two girls. "Our hearts are heavy, and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with their families and friends an ocean away," Lee said in the statement.
Still, Lee praised the actions of the fire department and first responders for their "quick response and heroic decisions" that saved many other lives.
"This tragic accident is especially hard for them – and all of us – to endure," Lee said. "Together, we deeply mourn the loss of Ye Mengyuan, with her family and friends."