Authorities confirm 2 dead; all others are accounted for
San Francisco’s fire chief says authorities have accounted for all the passengers and crew members who were about the jetliner that crashed at San Francisco International Airport.
Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said that as of Saturday evening, the more than 300 people who were aboard Asiana Flight 411 had been located at either hospitals or the airport.
Earlier Saturday, Hayes-White had reported that authorities did not know where “upwards of 60” people were after the crash.
She says the confusion stemmed from survivors being brought from the wreckage from two locations.
The Asiana Airlines flight packed with more than 300 people slammed into the runway while landing at the airport Saturday and caught fire, forcing many to escape by sliding down the emergency inflatable slides as flames tore through the plane.
At least two people died in the crash, authorities said. At least 181 people were taken to hospitals, most of them with minor injuries.
As the plane approached the runway from the waters of San Francisco Bay around noon, travelers in the terminals and others eyewitnesses could see that the aircraft was swaying unusually from side to side and that at one point the tail seemed to hit the ground.
Kate Belding, who was jogging a few miles away, said she thought: “Oh my God. That plane is crashing.”
By the time the flames were out, the top of the Boeing 777’s fuselage had burned away. The tail section was gone, with pieces of it scattered across the beginning of the runway.
One engine appeared to have broken away. Emergency responders could be seen walking inside the burned-out wreckage.
News of the crash spread quickly on Twitter and the Internet in this wired city, with eyewitnesses tweeting their stories, posting images of the plumes of smoke rising above the bay and uploading video of passengers fleeing the burning plane.
“It just looked really bad,” Belding said. “I’ve seen the pictures of it since then, and it’s amazing anyone walked out of that plane.”
The probe has been turned over to the FBI and terrorism has been ruled out, said San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said. Federal aviation and transportation investigators were heading to the scene. Asiana, Boeing and the engine manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney, pledged to work with them.
Vedpal Singh, who was sitting in the middle of the aircraft and survived the crash with his family, said there was no forewarning from the pilot or any crew members before the plane touched down hard and he heard a loud sound.
“We knew something was horrible wrong,” said Singh, who suffered a fractured collarbone. “It’s miraculous we survived,” he said.
Based on witness accounts in the news and video of the wreckage, Mike Barr, a former military pilot and accident investigator who teaches aviation safety at the University of Southern California, said it appeared the plane approached the runway too low and something may have caught the runway lip — the seawall at the end of the runway.
Since the plane was about to land, its landing gear would have already been down, Barr said. It’s possible the landing gear or the tail of the plane hit the seawall, he said. If that happened, it would effectively slam the plane into the runway, he said.
The flight originated in Shanghai, China, and stopped in Seoul, South Korea, before coming to San Francisco, airport officials said.