Press Trust of India
SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON, 7 JULY: At least two people were killed and over 180 injured when an Asiana Airlines plane with three Indians among 307 onboard hit the runway and engulfed into flame while landing at San Francisco airport.
More than 300 people on flight OZ214, however, miraculously escaped from the burnt-out wreckage of the South Korean airlines’ Boeing 777, using evacuation slides.
At least two people were killed while 181 injured, most with minor injuries, officials said. Five people, including one child, remained in critical condition at San Francisco General Hospital, the region’s main trauma centre, they said.
Three Indians were also on board the ill-fated flight of Asiana Airlines from Seoul to San Francisco.
Indian Ambassador to South Korea Vishnu Prakash said that there were three Indian passengers on board the plane and one of them suffered collar bone fracture.
“ASIANA mishap at SFO: 3 Indians on board too. 1 suffered collar bone fracture & other minor injuries. Wish ASIANA gives out complete info,” he wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter.
The authorities said one person was unaccounted for. Federal Aviation official said the tail ripped off the airplane as it was touching down on the San Francisco airport runway about 11.30 a.m. local time after arriving from Seoul.
There were 16 crew members on the flight, in addition to 291 passengers, according to Asiana Airlines. The manifest included 141 Chinese passengers, 77 South Koreans and 61 Americans etc, Asiana Airlines said in a statement.
“The Airlines is currently investigating the specific cause of the incident,” it said, adding that the airlines will continue to cooperate with the investigation of all associated government agencies and to facilitate this cooperation has established an emergency response centre at its headquarters.
The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has launched a full go-team to San Francisco, to investigate the crash.
“The crash occurred while the aircraft was landing at San Francisco International Airport,” it said in a statement.
“We have not determined what the focus of this investigation is yet… Everything is on the table at this point. The team will include people focused on operations; human performance; survival factors; airport operations; and aircraft systems, structure and power,” the NTSB chairwoman, Deborah Hersman, told reporters in Washington.
Soon after the crash, US President Barack Obama was made aware of the incident by Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism.
President Obama “directed his team to stay in constant contact with the federal, state and local partners as they investigate and respond to this event. His thoughts and prayers go out to the families who lost a loved one and all those affected by the crash,” the White House said.
Extending its deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who perished in the accident, Boeing said it will join the NTSB at their request to provide technical assistance to their investigation.
Some of the passengers recounted their harrowing tale of the incident.
An Indian passenger, who was sitting in the middle of the aircraft and survived the crash with his family, said there was no forewarning from the pilot or any crew members before the plane touched down hard and he heard a loud sound. “It’s miraculous we survived,” Mr Vedpal Singh, who suffered a fractured collarbone and had his arm was in a sling, was quoted as saying by the US media.
Mr Elliott Stone, one of those on the flight, told the CNN: “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 ended up jumping out the plane without using the stairs or an evacuation slide.
Some of the videos posted on You Tube by eyewitness showed the plane engulfed in fire and people sliding out of the plane and running for safety. “I just crash landed at SFO,” read the message from David Eun. “Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I’m ok. Surreal…”
According to eye witnesses the plane’s tail struck the ground first, and then the aircraft braked suddenly and spun around. “It flipped… hit the ground,” said a teenage boy who said he was aboard the flight. “The top just totally collapsed on top of a lot of people,” he told reporters.
“It was a bit surreal,” said passenger Benjamin Levy in an interview with ‘NBC Bay Area’, referring to the tail of the plane hitting the sea wall and the plane bouncing on the runway twice. “A lot of people were screaming and not really believing what was happening,” Mr Levy said.
As a result of the crash landing, the San Francisco airport was shut down and planes were diverted to the nearest airports, most of them to the busy Los Angeles airport.
Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, said that she and her family were booked on the Asiana flight that crashed, but they switched to a United Airlines flight to get frequent-flyer miles.