Two Dead After Plane Crash at San Francisco Airport
(CNN) — Two people died after a Boeing 777 from South Korea crashed Saturday upon landing at San Francisco International Airport, sending up a huge fireball and spinning before finally coming to a stop — having lost its tail and, eventually, much of its charred roof.
Asiana Airlines Flight 214 left Seoul’s Incheon International Airport earlier Saturday, according to FlightAware, a website that offers tracking services for private and commercial air traffic. An airline spokesman in Seoul told CNN that 291 passengers and 16 staff members were aboard.
Two people have died, city Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said.
At least 28 people hurt in the crash were being treated late Saturday afternoon at area hospitals — 15 at San Francisco General Hospital, five at Stanford Hospital, five at California Pacific Medical Center’s St. Luke’s Campus and three at St. Francis Memorial Hospital — hospital spokespeople said.
San Francisco General Hospital spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said that facility was expecting another 15 patients. At least 10 who were already in that hospital — eight adults and two children — were in critical condition. Tents have been set up outside the hospital’s emergency department.
“This is still a fluid and active scene,” Mayor Edwin Lee told reporters at approximately 6:10 p.m. “Not everyone had been accounted for.”
The U.S. Coast Guard has transported one person to Stanford Hospital, said Corrine Gaines of the military branch.
Air traffic control audio — between the airport’s tower and Flight 214 crew members — suggested that those on the ground knew there was some sort of problem, promising that “emergency vehicles are responding.”
“We have everyone on their way,” the air traffic controller said, according to LiveATC.net, a website that provides air traffic control audio.
One of those on the flight, Elliott Stone, told CNN that he thought the plane was approaching “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,” said Stone, who added that he ended up jumping out the plane without using the stairs or an evacuation slide.
Anthony Castorani, who witnessed the landing from a nearby hotel, said he saw the plane touch the ground then noticed a larger plume of white smoke.
“You heard a pop and you immediately saw a large, brief fireball that came from underneath the aircraft,” he told CNN.
Kristina Stapchuck saw the dramatic scene unfold from her seat on a plane on the airport tarmac. Soon after Flight 214 touched down, “it looked like the tires slipped a little bit and it rocked back,” she told CNN.
Parts of the plane began to break off as it rocked and then began to spin.
“It all happened so suddenly,” Stapchuck told CNN.
A photo provided to CNN by Eunice Bird Rah — and shot by her father, who was a passenger on the plane — shows flames and smoke bursting out of many of the aircraft’s windows.
Rah’s father knew something bad was coming, he told his daughter, telling her that the pilot appeared to try to raise the plane at the last minute. Rah said her father “is doing fine, thank God,” but noted that others appeared to be hurt.
Said Rah: “It’s heartbreaking.”
Video taken soon after the crash and posted on YouTube showed dark gray smoke rising from the plane, which appeared to be upright. That smoke later became white, even as fire crews continued to douse the plane.
CNN iReporter Timothy Clark was on an eighth-floor balcony of a nearby hotel when he heard the noise and saw a “dust cloud.”
“Then people running from the plane, then flames,” Clark said.
A photograph posted to Twitter shows what appear to be passengers walking off the plane, some of them toting bags, as smoke rises from the other side.
“I just crash landed at SFO,” read the accompanying message from David Eun. “Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I’m ok. Surreal…”
The top of the aircraft was charred and, in spots, gone entirely, according to video from CNN affiliate KTVU. The plane was on its belly, with no landing gear evident and the rear tail of the plane gone.
Debris settled from the water’s edge, along San Francisco Bay, up to where the plane eventually came to a stop.
Fire trucks were on site; first responders could be seen walking outside the aircraft.
Evacuation slides could be seen extending from one side of the aircraft, from which there was no apparent smoke.
According to Asiana Airlines, 141 of the passengers who were aboard Flight 214 are Chinese, 77 are South Korean and 61 are American.