UPDATE: Official: 2 dead in San Francisco plane crash
By TERRY COLLINS, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - An Asiana Airlines flight from
Seoul, South Korea, crashed while landing at San Francisco
International Airport on Saturday, killing at least two people, injuring
dozens of others and forcing passengers to jump down the emergency
inflatable slides to safety as flames tore through the plane.
More than 60 people were also unaccounted for from
among the 307 passengers and crew aboard the flight, said San Francisco
Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White. It wasn't immediately clear where they
were, but she said they weren't all presumed dead at this time.
"This is a work in progress," she said, adding the
investigation has been turned over to the FBI and that terrorism has
been ruled out. She said at least 48 people were initially transported
from the scene to area hospitals.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Flight 214
crashed while landing before noon 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
It wasn't immediately clear what happened to the
plane as it was landing, but some eyewitnesses said the aircraft seemed
to lose control and that the tail may have hit the ground.
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.
"I mean we were sure that we had just seen a lot of
people die. It was awful," she said. "And it looked like the plane had
completely broken apart. There were flames and smoke just billowing."
Kate Belding was out jogging just before 11:30 a.m.
on a path across 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.
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. The maker of the plane's engines, Pratt &
Whitney, said it was cooperating with authorities investigating the
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
The flight was 10 hours and 23 minutes, according
to FlightAware, a flight tracking service. The 777 is a smaller,
wide-body jet that can travel long distances without refueling and is
typically used for long flights over water.
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.
An investigation revealed ice pellets that had
formed in the fuel were clogging the fuel-oil heat exchanger, blocking
fuel from reaching the plane's engines. The Rolls-Royce Trent 800 series
engines that were used on the plane were then redesigned.
Bill Waldock, an expert on aviation accident
investigation, said he was reminded of the Heathrow accident as he
watched video of Saturday's crash. "Of course, there is no indication
directly that's what happened here," he said. "That's what the
investigation is going to have to find out."
The Asiana 777 "was right at the landing phase and
for whatever reason the landing went wrong," said Waldock, director of
the Embry-Riddle University accident investigation laboratory in
Prescott, Ariz. "For whatever reason, they appeared to go low on
approach and then the airplane pitched up suddenly to an extreme
attitude, which could have been the pilots trying to keep it out of the
The last time a large U.S. airline lost a plane in a
fatal crash was an American Airlines Airbus A300 taking off from John
F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in 2001.
Smaller airlines have had crashes since then. The
last fatal U.S. crash was a Continental Express flight operated by
Colgan Air, which crashed into a house near Buffalo, N.Y. on Feb. 12,
2009. The crash killed all 49 people on board and one man in a house.
Flying remains one of the safest forms of
transportation: There are about two deaths worldwide for every 100
million passengers on commercial flights, according to an Associated
Press analysis of government accident data.
Just a decade ago, passengers were 10 times as
likely to die when flying on an American plane. The risk of death was
even greater during the start of the jet age, with 1,696 people dying -
133 out of every 100 million passengers - from 1962 to 1971. The figures
exclude acts of terrorism.
Asia remains one of the fastest-growing regions for
aviation in the world. Even with slowing economies in Japan and China,
airlines there saw 3.7 percent more passengers than a year ago,
according to the International Air Transport Association.
Finding enough experienced pilots to meet a growing
number of flights is becoming a problem. A 2012 report by aircraft
manufacturer Boeing said the industry would need 460,000 new commercial
airline pilots in the next two decades - with 185,000 of them needed in
"The Asia-Pacific region continues to present the largest projected growth in pilot demand," the report said.
Associated Press writers Joan Lowy in Washington,
D.C., Scott Mayerowitz in New York and Pauline Arrillaga in Phoenix
contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 The
Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be
published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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