Probes into San Francisco plane crash begin as victims named
Two Chinese teenagers killed and more than 180 injured as Boeing 777 crash-landed
Dale Carnes, assistant deputy chief of the San Francisco Fire Department, said 49 people were hospitalized with serious injuries. Another 132 suffered moderate and minor injuries.
Five people were in critical condition at San Francisco General Hospital, according to spokeswoman Rachael Kagan. She said a total of 52 people were treated for burns, fractures and internal injuries. Three people were critical at Stanford Hospital.
Survivor Benjamin Levy told a local NBC station he believed the Asiana plane had been coming in too low. “I know the airport pretty well, so I realized the guy was a bit too low, too fast, and somehow he was not going to hit the runway on time, so he was too low ... he put some gas and tried to go up again,” he said in a telephone interview. “But it was too late, so we hit the runway pretty bad, and then we started going up in the air again, and then landed again, pretty hard.”
Mr Levy said he opened an emergency door and ushered people out. “We got pretty much everyone in the back section of the plane out,” he said. “When we got out there was some smoke. There was no fire then. The fire came afterward.”
Vedpal Singh, a native of India, was on board the flight along with his wife and son when the aircraft struck the landing strip. “Your instincts take over. You don’t know what’s going on,” said Mr Singh, who had his arm in a sling as he walked through the airport’s international terminal and told reporters he had suffered a fractured collar bone.
Asiana, South Korea’s junior carrier, has had two other fatal crashes in its 25-year history. A senior Asiana official said the pilot was Lee Jeong-min, a veteran pilot who has spent his career with the airline. He was among four pilots on the plane who rotated on two-person shifts during the 10-hour flight, the official said.
A San Francisco airport spokesman said that a component of the facility’s instrument landing system that tracks an incoming airplane’s glide path was not working on Saturday. Pilots and air safety experts said the glide path technology was far from essential for a safe landing in good weather.
But Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, a retired pilot and safety consultant who gained fame for landing a plane safely in the Hudson River in 2009, said investigators would certainly be looking into the issue.
“The pilots would have had to rely solely on visual cues to fly the proper glide path to the runway, and not have had available to them the electronic information that they typically have even in good weather at most major airports,” he told the local CBS News affiliate.
A British Airways 777-200ER crash-landed a few yards short of a runway at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2008. All on board survived. Investigators blamed the crash on fuel blockages caused by ice particles formed during the long flight from Beijing - a finding that led to changes in the design of the Rolls-Royce engines used on some 777s.