July 11, 2013

Asiana passengers called 911 begging for help

San Francisco officials said ambulances could not come too close out of concern that the plane would explode.

By Martha Mendoza / The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Passengers who called 911 minutes after a Boeing 777 crashed at San Francisco International Airport said not enough help had arrived and they were doing their best to keep the critically injured alive, according to 911 calls that portray a scene of desperation.

click image to enlarge

The wreckage of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 sits on the tarmac in San Francisco. Investigators said the Boeing 777 was traveling "significantly below" the target speed during its approach and that the crew tried to abort the landing just before it smashed onto the runway.

AP

Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash-landed Saturday when it came in too low and too slow, killing two passengers and injuring others as it skittered and spun 100 feet. Most of the injured suffered minor injuries.

"We've been on the ground, I don't know, 20 minutes, a half hour," one woman said in a 911 call released late Wednesday by the California Highway Patrol. "There are people laying on the tarmac with critical injuries, head injuries. We're almost losing a woman here. We're trying to keep her alive."

Another caller told a dispatcher: "There's not enough medics out here. There is a woman out here on the street, on the runway, who is pretty much burned very severely on the head and we don't know what to do."

The dispatcher told the caller: "OK. We do have help started that way. You said that they're there, but there's not enough people, correct?"

"Yes," the caller said. "She is severely burned. She will probably die soon if we don't get help."

The dispatcher responded: "We are working on getting additional ambulances to you."

San Francisco officials said ambulances could not come too close out of concern that the plane would explode.

Authorities have said that during the chaos, one of the emergency response trucks might have run over one of the two Chinese teenagers killed in the crash.

Meanwhile, federal investigators are examining the cockpit interaction of two Asiana Airlines pilots who had taken on new roles before the crash of Flight 214 — one of whom had seldom flown a Boeing 777 and an instructor who was on his first training flight.

There were four pilots on board, but the National Transportation Safety Board is focusing on the working relationship between Lee Gang-kuk, who was landing the big jet for his first time at San Francisco International Airport, and Lee Jeong-Min, who was training him.

While the two men had years of aviation experience, this mission involved unfamiliar duties, and it was the first time they had flown together.

The pilots were assigned to work together through a tightly regulated system developed after several deadly crashes in the 1980s were blamed in part on inexperience in the cockpit, NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said Wednesday.

"We are certainly interested to see if there are issues where there are challenges to crew communication, if there's an authority break in where people won't challenge one another," she said.

Pilots are trained to communicate their concerns openly, she said, "to make sure that a junior pilot feels comfortable challenging a senior pilot and to make sure the senior pilot welcomes feedback in a cockpit environment from all members of the crew and considers it."

Hersman said the pilot trainee told investigators he was blinded by a light at about 500 feet, which would have been 34 seconds before impact and the point at which the airliner began to slow and drop precipitously. She said lasers have not been ruled out. It was unclear, however, whether the flash might have played a role in the crash.

Hersman also said a third pilot in the jump seat of the cockpit told investigators he was warning them their speed was too slow as they approached the runway.

(Continued on page 2)

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