SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — U.S. and South Korean officials are investigating the deadly crash landing of a Boeing 777 passenger plane at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) Saturday. The plane, operated by South Korea-based carrier Asiana Airlines, apparently crashed upon landing, killing two passengers and injuring than 181 others.
Authorities said that Asiana flight 214 from Seoul’s Incheon International Airrport was carrying 291 passengers and 16 crew members. Of those passengers, 141 were Chinese, 77 South Korean, 61 American, and one Japanese national.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing the airplane’s tail break off during the runway crash. The airplane then spun around before screeching to a stop and catching fire. Flames quickly engulfed the fuselage as passengers used emergency inflatables to vacate the fuselage. Pictures taken after the crash show that most of the fuselage roof had been ripped or burned off. Other parts of the craft were charred or missing.
It isn’t clear whether the airplane had its landing gear down when it landed.
According to CBS, the two fatalities were identified as Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, both 16-year-old schoolgirls from a “highly competitive” school in the affluent city of Zhejiang in eastern China. According to various reports, the girls were seated at the rear of the plane. Fire officials found their bodies on the exterior of the aircraft. The victims were among 29 students from Jiangshan Middle School and a larger group of 70 students traveling to the U.S. with their teachers.
According to the San Francisco Fire Department, 49 of the injured passengers were taken to local hospitals in serious condition. San Francisco General Hospital said that that it had 10 patients – eight adults and two children – in critical condition.
Elliott Stone, one of the passengers on the flight, told CNN that he thought the airplane was approaching the runway “a little high then came down a little sharp.”
“All of a sudden, boom, the back end just hit and flies up into the air and everyone’s head goes up the ceiling,” Mr. Stone told CNN, explaining that he jumped out of the airplane without using stairs or an evacuation slide.
Debbie Hersman, chairman of the National Transport Safety Board, said: “Teams are going to be focused on operations, human performance, survival factors, the airport, airport operations and they are going to be focusing on the aircraft — the systems, the structures and the power plants.