Asiana Airplane Crashes at San Francisco Airport
SAN FRANCISCO -- An Asiana Airlines flight from Seoul, South Korea, crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, forcing passengers to jump down the emergency inflatable slides to safety. There were early reports of injuries, but the extent wasn’t immediately clear.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said Flight 214 crashed while landing at 11:26 PDT. A video clip posted to YouTube showed smoke coming from a jet on the tarmac. Passengers could be seen jumping down the emergency slides.
Television footage showed the top of the fuselage was burned away and the entire tail was gone. One engine appeared to have broken away. Pieces of the tail were strewn about the runway. Emergency responders could be seen walking inside the burned-out wreckage.
It wasn’t immediately clear what happened to the plane as it was landing, but some eyewitnesses described the aircraft doing a cartwheel and other said that it appeared to sway back and forth kicking up dust. Many said the tail fell off.
Stephanie Turner saw the plane going down and the rescue slides deploy, but returned to her hotel room before seeing any passengers get off the jet, she told ABC News. Turner said when she first saw the flight she noticed right away that the angle of its approach seemed strange.
"It didn’t manage to straighten out before hitting the runway," she said. "So the tail of the plane hit the runway, and it cartwheeled and spun and the tail broke off ... I mean we were sure that we had just seen a lot of people die. It was awful.
"And it looked like the plane had completely broken apart," she said. "There were flames and smoke just billowing."
Kate Belding was out jogging just before 11:30 a.m. on a path the water from the airport when she noticed the plane approaching the runway in a way that "just didn’t look like it was coming in quite right."
"Then all of a sudden I saw what looked like a cloud of dirt puffing up and then there was a big bang and it kind of looked like the plane maybe bounced (as it neared the ground)," she said. "I couldn’t really tell what happened, but you saw the wings going up and (in) a weird angle."
"Not like it was cartwheeling," she said, but rather as though the wings were almost swaying from side to side.
Doug Yakel, a spokesman for the airport, said he did not yet know how many passengers were aboard the flight. "We also don’t have any information at this time to the status of those passengers," he said at a brief news conference.
Rachael Kagan, a spokeswoman for San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, told KCBS radio in San Francisco that 10 passengers had been taken to the hospital - two children and eight adults, all in critical condition.
A call to the airline seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team of investigators to San Francisco to probe the crash. NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said Saturday that NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman would head the team.
Boeing said it was preparing to provide technical assistance to the NTSB.
Numerous flights headed to San Francisco were diverted to other airports. A United Airlines flight bound for San Francisco was sent to Los Angeles airport, and passengers were told the San Francisco airport would be closed for at least three hours Saturday afternoon.
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 one of the world’s most popular long-distance planes, often used for flights of 12 hours or more, from one continent to another. The airline’s website says its 777s can carry between 246 to 300 passengers.