The pilot in control of the Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 that crash landed at San Francisco International Airport had little experience flying that plane and was landing one for the first time at that airport. Stephen Stock reports.
Two 16-year-old schoolgirls from eastern China died after after Flight 214 crashed and burst into flames upon landing. San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault told NBC Bay Area one of the bodies was found on the tarmac near where the plane's tail broke off when it slammed into the runway. The other was found about 30 feet away from where the jetliner came to rest after it skidded down the runway -- and the victim may have been run over by a fire truck.
Six people remained in critical condition Sunday at San Francisco General Hospital, one of nine Bay Area hospitals attending to victims of the crash. Of the 53 patients treated at the hospital, 19 remained hospitalized Sunday.
At least two patients are paralyzed, said SF General's Chief of Surgery, Dr. Mary Margaret Knudson. Other patients are said to be suffering from abdominal injuries, spine fractures and road rash.
"We are used to all these types of injuries," Knudson said. "We just don't usually see them all at once."
Another 55 patients were treated at Stanford Hospital. Two patients were still listed in critical condition there on Sunday, with another nine considered to be in either fair or good condition.
Helicopter video of the scene showed the plane with severe burn damage to the top of its fuselage. The jumbo jet's tail section was detached and a line of debris stretched to the bay.
Passengers described chaos in the aftermath of the accident, with many of the 291 onboard escaping by sliding down emergency inflatable slides.
"It was surreal," Benjamin Levy, a businessman seated in the Boeing 777 jetliner's 32nd row, told NBC Bay Area. "A lot of people screaming and not really believing what has happening to them. I wasn’t believing it either."
Levy said it seemed the plane had been coming in too low for landing at San Francisco, and the pilot "missed the runway quite completely."
"He tried to correct, which probably helped," he said. "We would have hit the rocks.”
San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee said the work of emergency officials stopped the situation from becoming much worse.
"A number of miracles occurred that saved many lives," Lee said at the Sunday afternoon press conference.
Asiana Airlines President Yoon Young-doo identified the two fatalities Sunday as female teenagers from China, saying they had been sitting at the back of the plane. The South Korean airline's official Weibo microblog later said both girls, Ye Mengtuan and Wang Linjia, were 16-year-old students at Jiangshan Middle School in Zhejiang province, which borders Shanghai.
Speaking at a news conference in Seoul, Young-doo said that he did not believe the flight suffered an engine defect. He described the four pilots aboard the plane at the time of the crash as "skilled," the AP reported. Three of the pilots had each logged more than 10,000 hours of flight time, he said.
Still, Young-doo bowed and said that he was "extending my deep apology" to passengers, their families and South Koreans.
The two students killed were part of a group of Chinese passengers aboard Flight 214 headed to a summer school program in the Los Angeles area.
The 35 students in the group were scheduled to arrive at West Valley Christian School in West Hills for three weeks, according to the school’s website.
They were going to be hosted by families in the San Fernando Valley.
“We are unsure what their next steps will be," the website said, "but we are certain that God knows and will help us care for them in this time of crisis."
SFO officials said a total of 307 people were on board Flight 214: 291 passengers and 16 crew members. Asiana Airlines said the passengers included 77 Koreans, 141 "of Chinese descent," 61 U.S. citizens, three from India, one Japanese, one from Vietnam, and seven of unknown origin.
Flights in and out of SFO were suspended for about four hours after the crash, the first fatal accident at the airport in 75 years.
Saturday's crash was also the second major accident involving a Boeing 777 in the 18 years the model has been in service, according to the AP. That earlier accident occurred Jan. 17, 2008, when British Airways Flight 28 from China landed about 1,000 feet short of the runway at London's Heathrow Airport. The impact broke the jet's landing gear and caused 47 injuries.