SAN FRANCISCO, July 6, 2013 (UPDATE 11 p.m. ET) — A federal aviation official says an Asiana Airlines flight crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport. The Boeing 777 aircraft had 291 passengers and 16 crew members on board. From eyewitnesses and reports from passengers who escaped the craft, many people walked away relatively unharmed.
Flight 214 originated from Seoul, South Korea at 5:05 p.m. local time, enroute to San Francisco. Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Lynn Lunsford says the Boeing 777-200 crashed at San Francisco Airport while landing on Saturday.
The San Francisco Fire Department confirmed reports of two casualties. A total of 182 injured people were transported in several waves to local hospitals in San Francisco and San Mateo. San Francisco General Hospital received the ten most critical including two children arriving first, ending with a last group of 34 individuals who were the least seriously injured. Stanford Hospital reportedly received 45 patients. There are 123 people uninjured, many of whom walked away under their own power. San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White says all passengers are now accounted for.
Asiana Airlines reports 61 passengers are Americans; 77 are Korean; 141 are Chinese. The nation origin of the remaining passengers is unknown.
The plane’s tail section broke away from the aircraft upon impact; the fuselage of the airplane was heavily damaged.
In a late afternoon briefing before leaving Washington, National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah Hersman said she will lead the investigation. Hersman said the NTSB “has a lot of work to do” and that no cause would be determined until all the facts were gathered. She said three Los Angeles based investigators were enroute to San Francisco and would initiate the investigation including attempts to locate flight recorders.
Crash eyewitness Stephanie Turner saw the plane going down and the rescue slides deploy. Turner told ABC News that 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.”
Amazingly, passenger David Eun, who identifies himself on his Twitter account @Eunner as “Consumer Internet/Digital Media guy. Father, All-American Korean, Virginian and converted NYer, frequent flier,” was onboard the flight and posted the following messages to his Twitter account.
“I just crash landed at SFO. Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I’m ok. Surreal…” He then followed up nine minutes later with “Fire and rescue people all over the place. They’re evacuating the injured. Haven’t felt this way since 9/11.”
At 3:34 p.m. ET, he added “Lots of activity here. Friends, pls don’t call right now. I’m fine. Most people are totally calm and trying to let the fire and rescue do their jobs. Just like during 9/11, most people are great and try to be helpful in crisis…”
Passengers were seen in other photos posted to Twitter walking away across the tarmac, some of them with luggage in hand.
Eyewitness Anthony Castorani speaking to CNN said he saw the flight coming in. He is visiting San Francisco and watched the landing from his hotel window.
Castorani said the landing appeared to be routine and no emergency crews were present.
He said it appeared to hit the runway early with no nose gear down.
Castorani reports he saw smoke coming from the plane, and as it hit the runway, a wing and the tail broke off as the plane started to cartwheel.
He says he called 911 dispatch in San Francisco, and dispatchers at that time were not aware of the situation.
A video clip posted to YouTube shows smoke coming from a silver-colored jet on the tarmac. Passengers could be seen jumping down the inflatable emergency slides.
The Associated Press, KTVU-TV San Francisco, and CNN contributed to this report.
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