timesleader.com

Fiery plane crash leaves 2 dead in S.F.

July 6, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO — 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 passengers were also unaccounted for, 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 wreckage.


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 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.


San Francisco General Hospital spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said the adult patients range in age from 20 to their 40s. It was not immediately clear the ages of the children.


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.