Two people were killed and 49 people were seriously injured today when a Boeing 777 passenger jetliner arriving from Seoul crashed and caught fire while landing at San Francisco International Airport, officials said.
The plane, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 with 307 people onboard, slammed to earth at 11:27 a.m. and came to rest on the side of Runway 28L, one of four runways at SFO, said Lynn Lunsford, a spokeswoman with the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane appeared to make impact short of the runway and then spin as it careened across the ground – losing its tail and leaving a trail of debris.
There were 291 passengers and 16 crew members aboard. Two people were killed, 49 were seriously hurt, another 132 suffered lesser injuries and went to area hospitals, and one person was unaccounted for, SFO spokesman Doug Yakel said at an evening press conference at the airport. The other 123 people onboard were not injured.
The injuries “are consistent with the types of injuries you would see in a plane crash or fire,” said Rachael Kagan, a spokeswoman at San Francisco General Hospital, where five people were in critical condition. “Many burns, fractures and internal injuries.”
Parts of the airport were turned into evacuation or triage centers as emergency workers processed victims and worried relatives and friends swarmed to check on loved ones.
There was no immediate indication of what caused the crash, but an FBI special agent said there was no indication it was a terrorist act.
One passenger, Benjamin Levy, told television station KNTV that “we were approaching perfectly well, except that we were too low, too soon. We were maybe 5 meters, 10 meters above the water way still out of the landing area. And so when the pilot realized it, he put some more gas to try to correct and lift up the plane again, but it was too late. “So we hit the runway pretty bad, and then we started going back up in the air again and then landed again pretty hard,” Levy said.
David Eun, an executive at Seoul-based Samsung who was a passenger on the 10 1/2-hour flight, said in a tweet from the airport that there were “fire and rescue people all over the place. They’re evacuating the injured. I haven’t felt this way since 9/11.”
Adrian John Mirabueno, a mechanic for United Air Lines, was on the airfield and saw the plane landing.
“It landed straight, then went to the side and then all you saw was hella smoke coming off it,” he said. “I was scared for the families, and to tell the truth I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Hayes-White said some passengers were sliding down emergency chutes when firefighters arrived.
Video footage of the plane taken by news helicopters showed the plane on its belly. The cockpit was intact but the top of the fuselage from the front to the wings had burned away. The jetliner’s tail section was gone.
Aerial news footage showed debris, including parts of a wheel assembly, extending from an embankment at the front of the runway.
The National Transportation Safety Board said its investigators were en route to San Francisco, and would be looking into the incident with officials from Boeing and Korean accident investigators.
“It’s still too early for us to tell,” safety board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said at a press conference in Washington, D.C., when asked what she might have caused the crash. “We’ll certainly be looking at everything once we get there.”
The FBI also is involved in the investigation, but Special Agent David Johnson said at the airport press conference that “at this point in time, there is no indication of terrorism involved.”
Yakel said the weather was clear when the plane crashed.
Read more at SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE.