July 7, 2013

SF crash: "It could have been much worse"

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Fire crews respond to the scene where Asiana Flight 214 crashed at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday in San Francisco.

AP

Inside the plane, Singh, who was sitting in the middle of the aircraft 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 a visibly shaken Singh. He said the plane went silent before people tried to get out anyway they could. His 15-year-old son said luggage tumbled from the overhead bins.

Passenger Benjamin Levy said it looked to him that the plane was flying too low and too close to the bay as it approached the runway. Levy, who was sitting in an emergency exit row, said he felt the pilot try to lift the jet up before it crashed.

He said he thought the maneuver might have saved some lives. "Everybody was screaming. I was trying to usher them out," he recalled of the first seconds after the landing. "I said: 'Stay calm, stop screaming, help each other out, don't push.'"

The flight originated in Shanghai, China, and stopped over in Seoul, South Korea, before making the nearly 11-hour trip to San Francisco, airport officials said. The airline said there were 16 crew members aboard and 291 passengers. Thirty of the passengers were children.

San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White said the two who died were found on "the exterior" of the plane. "Having surveyed that area, we're lucky that there hasn't been a greater loss," she said.

Airport spokesman Doug Yakel said 49 people were critically injured and 132 had less significant injuries.

South Korean government said the passengers included 141 Chinese, 77 South Koreans, 61 Americans, three Canadians, three from India, one Japanese, one Vietnamese and one from France, while the nationalities of the remaining three haven't been confirmed.

Chinese state media identified the dead as two 16-year-old girls who were middle school students in China's eastern Zhejiang province. China Central Television cited a fax from Asiana Airlines to the Jiangshan city government. They were identified as Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia.

At least 70 Chinese students and teachers were on the plane heading to summer camps, according to education authorities in China.

Asiana President Yoon Young-doo said at a televised news conference that it will take time to determine the cause of the crash. But when asked about the possibility of engine or mechanical problems, he said he doesn't believe they could have been the cause.

He said the plane was bought in 2006 but didn't provide further details. Asiana officials later said the plane was also built that year.

Yoon also bowed and offered an apology, "I am bowing my head and extending my deep apology" to the passengers, their families and the South Korean people over the crash, he said.

Four pilots were aboard the plane and they rotated on a two-person shift during the flight, according to The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in South Korea. The two who piloted the plane at the time of crash were Lee Jeong-min and Lee Gang-guk.

Yoon, the Asiana president, described the pilots as "skilled," saying three had logged more than 10,000 hours each of flight time. He said the fourth had put in almost that much time, but officials later corrected that to say the fourth had logged nearly 5,000 hours. All four are South Koreans.

Asiana is a South Korean airline, second in size to national carrier Korean Air. It has recently tried to expand its presence in the United States, and joined the Star Alliance, which is anchored in the U.S. by United Airlines.

The 777-200 is a long-range plane from Boeing. The twin-engine aircraft is often used for flights from one continent to another because it can travel 12 hours or more without refueling.

The most notable accident involving a 777 occurred on Jan. 17, 2008 at Heathrow Airport in London. British Airways Flight 28 landed hard about  1,000 feet short of the runway and slid onto the start of the runway. The impact broke the 777-200's landing gear. There were 47 injuries, but no fatalities.

 

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