Story Summary

Jet crashes at San Francisco airport

Around 12 p.m. July 6, an Asiana jet plane crashed on the runway at the San Francisco International Airport. At least two people were killed in the incident and more than 40 injured. A cause for the accident is under investigation by the NTSB.

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By Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times

crash1A flight attendant who was the last to leave the burning wreckage of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 described the harrowing moments after the Boeing 777 crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday.

Cabin manger Lee Yoon-hye said right before the plane hit the runway, she felt the plane trying to take off again, before she felt a massive impact, followed by another “great big jolt.” The plane then shook left and right, Lee recalled at a Sunday night news conference with Korean reporters.

Lee, 40, said she rushed into the cockpit to check if the pilots were alive, and when they said they were OK, asked if she should evacuate the flight. She was initially instructed to hold off, and she made repeat announcements asking passengers to remain calm, recalled Lee, who has worked for Asiana for 18 years.

“Then I heard, ‘Evacuate!’” Lee said, speaking matter-of-factly in Korean. “After that, we followed our training, and began yelling ‘Emergency evacuation!’ and proceeded to evacuate the plane.”

As the crew scrambled to get passengers off the plane, the evacuation slide on the first exit to the right side of the plane inflated inward, pinning a flight attendant and nearly suffocating her, Lee said. One of the pilots rushed into the cockpit to get a “crash ax” to deflate the slide, as Lee led passengers off the plane through doors on the left.

Lee said she proceeded toward the back of the plane, evacuating people through exit one, then exit two on the left side of the plane. Near the third and last exit were many Chinese passengers, who didn’t seem to realize what was going on, she said.

“They were doing other things. I yelled at them to hurry outside, ‘Go! Go! Go that way!’” she said.

Three passengers remained in the back, including a woman who appeared to have badly injured her leg and was unable to slide down the exit on her own. Lee said she helped the passengers up to the second door, where they exited with the help of another flight attendant. A pilot carried out the woman with the leg injury.

It was then that flames erupted around row 10 on the right side of the plane, and she heard screams from a colleague asking her to save her life. A second slide had inflated inward near the flames, pinning a flight attendant’s leg.

“I grabbed a knife passengers had eaten with from a cart and handed it to the co-pilot, and he punctured it,” Lee said.

NTSB officials said they are investigating what happened with the emergency chutes.

Lee then grabbed a fire extinguisher and handed it to the co-pilot who tried to put out the flame. The co-pilot evacuated with the flight attendant whose leg was pinned.

Lee said she tried to check the back of the plane one last time before exiting herself, but it seemed like the top of the cabin was falling in and the rear of the plane was obscured in black smoke, almost as if there was a wall.

“My first priority was getting the passengers evacuated from the aircraft,” she said.

It was only later, at the hospital, that she realized she had broken her tailbone during the crash.

Watch this CNN animated video of how experts believe the Asiana Airlines plane crashed at San Francisco Airport on July 6.

By Lee Romney, Kate Mather and Joseph Serna, Los Angeles Times

asiana plane crash

Photo by David Eun, passenger on plane. Via Path.

SAN FRANCISCO — Jet fuel was leaking from Asiana Airlines Flight 214 as firefighters boarded the plane in what they described as a race against time to rescue passengers from the wreakage, first responders said Monday.

More than a dozen first responders came to a news conference to describe the chaotic scene in new detail. Many said responding to the plane crash, which killed two and seriously injured scores more, was beyond their normal experience.

San Francisco Fire Department Assistant Chief Tom Siragusa said “this is something we train for … but it’s not something many people would see in their career.”

He said there was nothing he would have done differently.

Lt. Christine Emmons said she was at the station’s “crash house” — the nickname for one of the airport fire stations. When they responded to the crash, she turned the corner and saw a plume of smoke coming from the plane.

“Adrenaline was flowing at this time,” she said. Emmons kept reminding the driver “if we don’t get there, we’re not going to help anybody.”

Emmons said she and other firefighters literally ran up the emergency chutes. Most of the fire was toward the front of the plane. The conditions worsened as they moved to the rear and the smoke and flames grew.

The air was clearest near the back of the plane, where the crash had the “greatest impact,” according to Emmons.

They found a passenger there, pinned between two seats.

Emmons said they saw jet fuel leaking from the engines. The flames spread overhead as they worked through the plane.

“I feel very lucky and blessed we were able to get those people out at that time,” she said.

The details emerged just a day after officials said the jetliner was flying far below its intended landing speed and on the verge of stalling before the aircraft clipped a sea wall and slammed into the runway.

The targeted landing speed for the Boeing 777-200ER is 137 knots, and the South Korean jetliner was “significantly” below that, said Deborah A.P. Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Independent flight tracking data indicate the wide-body’s airspeed might have dipped to as low as 85 knots in the moments leading up to the crash.

Hersman said there was a call in the cockpit to increase speed seven seconds before the plane’s tail struck the sea wall that separates the airport’s runway from the bay.

According to onboard flight and voice recorders, the pilots received a warning four seconds before impact that the aircraft was approaching a stall — a speed so low it can no longer generate enough lift to stay aloft.

At 1.5 seconds before impact, there was a call for the plane to abort the landing and circle around, Hersman said. By then it was too late, as the jetliner crashed and broke apart, killing two passengers and injuring dozens of others. The plane was carrying 307 people.

Asked whether pilot error may have been a factor, Hersman said: “Everything is on table right now. Nothing has been ruled out.”

Wang Linjia and Ye Mengyuan, 16-year-old girls from the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, were named over the weekend as the crash’s sole fatalities. Sunday afternoon, officials said one of the two teens may have been run over by an emergency vehicle. More than 180 other people were taken to hospitals after the incident. At least two of those were paralyzed with spinal injuries, and eight remained in critical condition Sunday, hospital officials said.

SAN FRANCISCO (KTLA) — The investigation continued on Monday into the deadly crash of an Asiana Airlines flight in San Francisco, amid new revelations about the pilot’s background.

The pilot was training to fly the Boeing 777, and was making his first descent at San Francisco International Airport with the jet, according to the airline.

However, it was not his first time flying into SFO, nor was it his first time piloting that model of aircraft.

Lee Kang-kuk had flown from Seoul to San Francisco several times between 1999 and 2004, Asiana officials said.

Including the flight on Saturday, he had piloted a Boeing 777 nine times, clocking a total of 43 hours, according to the airline.

He has piloted a total of about 10,000 hours, according to Asiana.


Cell phone video shows the moment of impact. From KTLA.

Lee was one of four pilots on board on Saturday who were working in shifts, airline officials said.

All four have been interviewed by the National Transportation Safety Board and South Korean investigators.

The crash happened on Saturday afternoon as the plane, with 307 people aboard, was preparing to land at the San Francisco airport.

Two 16-year-old girls from China were killed, and 182 people were hospitalized. Another 123 people walked away without injuries.

Amateur cell phone video obtained by CNN appears to show the plane’s tail coming in too low, and being clipped off when it hits the sea wall.

The plane then goes out of control, briefly tilting up, before coming to a stop. The aircraft erupts into smoke and flames.

It could take months to determine exactly what caused the plane to crash, NTSB officials said.

“No prior distress calls or requests for special support or problems were noted in the air traffic control tapes between the controller and the Asiana crew,” NTSB head Deborah Hersman said.

The agency on Sunday released some details from its initial assessment of the cockpit and flight data recorders.

The recorders showed that the plane was coming in too slow and too low, and that the pilots sped up seven seconds before impact.

At the time, the plane was traveling “significantly below” the target speed of 137 knots, Hersman said.

Four seconds before impact, a stall warning sounded, indicating that plane was about to lose its ability to stay in the air.

The voice recorder apparently showed the pilots tried to abort the landing, calling for a “go-around” just 1.5 seconds before the crash, Hersman said.

The NTSB has ruled out weather as a possible factor in the crash, saying conditions were right for a “visual landing.”

However, investigators were looking into the possibility that airport construction may have played a role.

The construction had temporarily shut off the glide-slope system, which is one of several options that pilots have to help them land safely, according to the NTSB.

SAN FRANCISCO — The two teenage girls traveling from China who died in Saturday’s Asiania Flight 214 crash were on their way to attend a summer church camp.

asianaNow we’re hearing from passengers who were on-board as they describe the terrifying scene after the airplane broke apart.

It was like, you know, bang and the impact was so powerful,” said passenger Eugene Rah.

One by one, harrowing accounts by passengers who survived the Asiana airliner that crashed on landing in San Francisco on Saturday.

“The plane tail touched the ground directly,” said survivor Wen Zhang. “Everybody screamed.”

“I just knew we were going to have a crash and i thought i was going to die,” added Rah.

Images snapped by the National Transportation Safety Board showed the cabin torn apart leaving oxygen masks hanging from the ceiling.

Two teenage girls from China were found dead on the tarmac. One may have been thrown from the plane on impact while an autopsy will determine if the other girl was run-over by a responding emergency vehicle.

But 305 people onboard flight Asiana flight 214 survived the crash.

182 people were rushed to San Francisco hospitals while the other passengers simply walked away with terrifying memories.

“I looked out through the window and I knew something was wrong,” said Rah. “It’s because we were too low. You know I’ve been, I’ve been to the situation so many times so I know where I’m supposed to be at. We were approaching to runway, at one point I kinda felt this is not right. It’s because I see water right outside the window.”

Surgeons praised the quick action of responders on the scene for saving the lives of dozens of passengers.

“I have to say whoever triaged these patients at the airport did a fabulous job,” said Doctor Margaret Knudson at San Francisco General Hospital. “They got to us the sickest patients in the shortest period of time or i don’t think those patients would have survived, truly.”

Passengers said they also helped to free a flight attendant who was trapped by an evacuation slide that inflated inside the aircraft.

Doctors are treating passengers for injuries ranging from severe road rash to paralysis.

crash1By Los Angeles Times
SAN FRANCISCO — One of the teenage passengers who died in the Asisana jetliner runway crash at San Francisco International Airport may have been run over by an emergency vehicle, officials said Sunday.

Two 16-year-old schoolgirls from China were found dead on the tarmac. One appears to have been ejected from the plane when it hit the seawall and began to fall apart, San Mateo County Coroner Robert J. Foucrault said. The other was found where the wreckage came to rest, near an escape chute.

The San Francisco Chronicle first reported that the second victim may have been run over by first responders. San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge on Sunday confirmed that the girl “did have injuries that were consistent with having been run over by a vehicle.”

“There were multiple agencies on the field yesterday and the NTSB is conducting a thorough investigation of the entire accident scene,” Talmadge said in an e-mail to The Times. “The Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death of both deceased girls.”

In a follow-up interview, Foucrault said fire officials had brought the possibility to the attention of his investigators, but the girl’s cause of death is not yet known. An autopsy could be complete by Sunday night.

“The reason we do autopsies is to determine a cause of death,” he said. “What we are trying to do is determine whether this young lady died of an airline crash or of a secondary incident. If it does involve a secondary incident the people who may be involved should be aware of it, as well as the family.”

He added that, “Depending on the results I think it would only be fair to discuss those with the family before we discuss them with the media.”

On Sunday afternoon, a National Transportation Safety Board official offered new details about Saturday’s crash of the jetliner that was carrying 307 people. NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said the pilots made no distress calls and appeared to be operating smoothly moments before it slowed to a near-stall and crashed into a sea wall near the runway.

At seven seconds prior to impact, a call is heard from one crew member “to increase speed,” Hersman, said. At four seconds before impact, the sound of the “stick shaker” – which noisily vibrates to warn pilots of an impending stall – can be heard, she said. Then, one and a half seconds before impact, the cockpit crew sought to initiate a “go-around,” hoping to power back up and circle back to the runway.

Speaking at a news conference in Seoul earlier Sunday, Yoon Young-doo, Asiana’s president, described the pilots involved as “skilled” and said it could take time to determine what went wrong.

The twin-engine 777 is one of the world’s most popular long-distance planes, often used for flights of at least a dozen hours.


Thousands of passengers were stranded at San Francisco International Airport after Saturday’s crash, which shut down the airport’s four runways. SFO’s restaurants stayed open all night Saturday to cater to stranded travelers who stood for hours in long lines to change their tickets.

Two runways reopened about three hours after the crash. Some international flights began leaving again Saturday night.

About 1 p.m. Sunday, a third runway, 28R, reopened, officials said.

(CNN) — The cockpit voice recorder of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 appears to show the pilots attempting to abort the landing just 1.5 seconds before it crashed at San Francisco International Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board chairman said Sunday.

sf jet crashThe pilots appear to have increased speed 7 seconds before impact, and they then “called to initiate a go-around 1.5 seconds to impact,” Deborah Hersman said.

The NTSB’s preliminary assessment of the plane’s cockpit and flight data recorders show the flight was coming in too slow and too low, but Hersman stopped short of pinning the blame on the pilots.

“We have a long way to go in this investigation,” she said.

The captain of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was identified Sunday night as Lee Kang-gook, a veteran airline pilot since 1994 but who had only 43 hours of experience flying the B777-200, the plane that crashed, officials said.

Survivors of the crash were being treated Sunday for injuries ranging from paralysis to “severe road rash.”

But they’re alive.

In all, 182 people were hospitalized and 123 others walked away from Saturday’s crash landing of a Boeing 777. The number who emerged unscathed prompted the city’s fire chief to describe it as “nothing short of a miracle.”

Amateur video surfaced on CNN Sunday showing Asiana Airlines Flight 214 approaching the runway and striking what appears to be a seawall before rotating counterclockwise and coming to a stop. Fred Hayes said he shot the video about a mile from the crash scene.

The death toll remained unchanged Sunday. Two 16-year-old girls died in the crash.

“We were expecting a lot of burns,” said Dr. Margaret Knudson, San Francisco General Hospital’s chief of surgery. “But we didn’t see them.”

At San Francisco General, 19 survivors remained hospitalized, six of them in critical condition.

Many of the injured said they were sitting toward the rear of the aircraft, said Knudson. Several suffered abdominal injuries and spine fractures, some of which include paralysis and head trauma, Knudson said. Many patients also were treated for “severe road rash,” she said, which suggests “that they were dragged.”

The conditions of victims at other hospitals was unclear Sunday.

In Washington, investigators were examining both flight data recorders, which could reveal clues to what caused the crash landing.

Survivors and witnesses reported the 7-year-old airliner appeared to be flying too low as it approached the end of a runway near the bay.

“Stabilized approaches have long been a safety concern for the aviation community,” Hersman told CNN on Sunday, saying they represent a significant threat. “We see a lot of runway crashes.”

“We want to understand what was going on with this crew so we can learn from it,” Hersman said.

By Thom Patterson, CNN

sf jet crash(CNN) — Investigators gathered critical clues in San Francisco on Sunday in hopes of solving the mystery surrounding the deadly crash landing of Asiana Airlines Flight 214.

Both flight data recorders have been recovered, the National Transportation Safety Board said, from wreckage left by Saturday’s tragedy that left two 16-year-old passengers dead.

Survivors and witnesses reported the 7-year-old Boeing 777 appeared to be flying too low as it approached the end of a runway near the bay.

“Stabilized approaches have long been a safety concern for the aviation community,” NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman told CNN on Sunday, saying they represent a significant threat. “We see a lot of runway crashes.”

“We want to understand what was going on with this crew so we can learn from it,” Hersman said.

Hersman said her team hopes to interview the pilots in the coming days.

Related: Passengers knew they were too low

Internal damage to the plane is “really striking,” she said, and officials are thankful there weren’t more deaths.

Nothing, including pilot error, has been ruled out as a possible cause of the crash, investigators said. The recorders have already arrived at an NTSB lab in Washington for analysis.

Teen girls Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, both Chinese nationals, were killed in the crash, Asiana Airlines said Sunday. There were 291 passengers and 16 crew members aboard the two-engine jet, which had flown a 10-hour direct flight from Seoul, South Korea.

“The tail of the Asiana flight hit the runway and the aircraft veered to the left out of the runway,” said Choi Jeong-ho, head of South Korea’s Aviation Policy Bureau.

Expert: The plane ‘should never have been close to the seawall’

Airport technology called the Instrument Landing System, or ILS — which normally would help pilots correctly approach the runway — was not operating at the time, according to a Federal Aviation Administration bulletin.

“There are a lot of systems that help support pilots” as they fly into busy airports, Hersman said. Some of these systems alert the pilots. “A lot of this is not necessarily about the plane telling them” that something may be wrong, she said. “It’s also about the pilot’s recognition of the circumstances and what’s going on. So for them to be able to assess what’s happening and make the right inputs to make sure they’re in a safe situation — that’s what we expect from pilots.”

The ILS integrates with the aircraft’s cockpit to trigger a audible warning, retired 777 pilot Mark Weiss told CNN. “You hear a mechanical voice that says, ‘too low, too low, too low.’” The ILS is “nice to have,” Weiss said, “but it’s not critical on the 777.” There are redundant systems aboard the aircraft that would provide similar warnings if the plane was coming in too low, said Weiss, who has landed 777s hundreds of times.

Weiss said he’s perplexed by the details surrounding the crash landing. If the pilot was somehow unaware the plane was coming in too low, Weiss wonders why another member of the flight crew didn’t speak up and warn him.

The pilot operating the aircraft was a veteran who had been flying for Asiana since 1996, the airline said. Evidence in the investigation will include data that show what action the pilots took during the approach to the airport.

Although temperatures were mild on the runway Saturday, a London crash landing of a British Airways 777 in 2008 raised suspicions about ice contributing to the San Francisco tragedy.

Investigators believe the UK incident was caused by ice forming in the fuel system as the plane flew through cold air over Siberia en route to the UK. Seventeen people were hurt in that crash.

“Even if the landing temperature was 65 degrees (Saturday), if they were at 10,000 feet shortly before, it potentially could have been a problem,” said Weiss. “But not necessarily. It’s something they want to take a look at.”

San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said that when crews arrived, “some of the passengers (were) coming out of the water. But the plane was certainly not in the water.”

Witnesses recount the crash

Survivors reported hearing no warning from the cockpit before the plane slammed onto the edge of the runway, severing the plane’s tail and sending the fuselage spinning on its belly. The crash landing blew a fireball and clouds of smoke into the sky.

Passengers scrambled to exit a crash scene that one survivor described as “surreal.”

Related: Asiana Airlines crash: At a glance

On the runway, medics found the bodies of the two Chinese teens lying next to burning wreckage. Remarkably, the other 305 people on the plane survived. Passengers included 70 Chinese students and teachers who were headed to summer camp in the United States, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

“We’re lucky there hasn’t been a greater loss of life,” Hayes-White said. When rescuers arrived, they found some passengers coming out of the water, she said.

“There was a fire on the plane, so the assumption might be that they went near the water’s edge, which is very shallow, to maybe douse themselves with water,” Hayes-White said.

While 182 of them were taken to hospitals with injuries ranging from spinal fractures to bruises, another 123 managed to escape unharmed.

Related: Why the crash was survivable

Some jumped out or slid down emergency chutes with luggage in hand.

South Korean investigators will work alongside U.S. investigators. Choi said it could take up to two years to learn exactly what caused the crash. Asiana CEO and President Yoon Young-doo said there was no engine failure, to his knowledge. “The company will conduct an accurate analysis on the cause of this accident and take strong countermeasures for safe operation in the future with the lesson learned from this accident,” Yoon said.

Asiana’s flight history over last 20 years

Statistically, 2012 was the safest year in terms of aviation accidents worldwide since 1945, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

Data show that there were 23 fatal airliner accidents, which caused 511 deaths, according to ASN stats. That’s well below the 10-year annual average of 34 accidents and 773 fatalities.

Survival rates have improved due to better staff training and safety advances during the 1980s and 1990s, according to the group.

CNN’s Faith Karimi and Aaron Cooper contributed to this report.

asiana plane crash

Photo by David Eun, passenger on plane. Via Path.

Seattle – The Asiana plane crash in San Fransisco caused a ripple effect of cancellations,diversions and delays at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Soon after the crash 5 international flights were diverted and 4 domestic flights never took off for San Francisco causing a chaotic scene of long lines.

One Virgin America flight with hundreds on board was on the way to San Francisco when they heard about the crash mid-air.

“We were an hour into our flight and they said oh we are so sorry we have to turn around and take you back to Seattle because of a crash,” said Nikyta Palmisani.

Many quickly tuned in to watch the terrifying images on their TV’s before they even landed.

“It was completely a surreal experience of seeing this burning plane with no wings and no tail,” said Palmisani.

Outside Sea-Tac several international flights went nowhere for hours after being diverted.

One family traveling from India on their way home to California had to first check their bags through customs then brave a sea of frustrated passengers hoping to reschedule their diverted flights.

“We are at the end of the line,” said Raj Zanzi.

“I’ve seen people crying at the airport, I just have a feeling that it will get more chaotic as time progresses,” said Laureen Bethards.

On Saturdays Sea-Tac normally sees a lot of international flights, so SFO’s temporary shut down meant a complicated choreography back here.

“Now you put on top of that, additional flights that were not scheduled to be here we are running into where can we put them at a gate standpoint where can we put flights waiting for departures later in the day,” said airport spokesperson Perry Cooper.

Many stranded passengers were able to get back on track to San Francisco, while others decided to make an unexpected stop in Seattle worthwile.

“My entire flight was waiting at the gate and I said forget it I have family here so I will just adventure for the day in Seattle,” said Palmisani.

Some say the inconvenience comes second to the concern they feel for the victims of the crash.

“I just feel bad for anybody who went through that,” said Berthards.

“You feel scared, you feel bad,” said Sarah Mitchell.

“Thinking we were up in the air at the same time that happened it’s scary,” said Insiya Zanzi.

No more flights were expected to be diverted to Sea-Tac Saturday night.

Officials say check with your airline for cancellations and delays for Sunday.