Reports say 2 teens killed in San Francisco airliner crash

Published: .
Updated: .

Federal safety officials say the pilots of Asiana Flight 214 were flying too slowly as they approached San Francisco airport on Saturday, triggering a warning that the jetliner could stall, and then tried to abort the landing seconds before crashing.

Asiana Airlines says their pilot was landing a 777 at San Francisco airport for the first time.  He had landed other aircraft there.

National Transportation Safety Board chief Deborah Hersman says the Boeing 777 was traveling at speeds well below the target landing speed of 137 knots per hour, or 157 mph. She says "We're not talking about a few knots." Hersman says the aircraft's stick shaker -- a piece of safety equipment that warns pilots of an impending stall -- went off moments before the crash.

The normal response to a stall warning is to increase speed to recover control. There was an increase several seconds before the crash, she says, basing her comments on an evaluation of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders. And she says at 1.5 seconds before impact, there was a call for an aborted landing.

The crash at San Francisco International Airport killed two 16-year-old girls from China and injured dozens of others.

Initially, officials said several of the 306 passengers were unaccounted for. 

A San Francisco-area coroner whose office received the bodies of the two teenage victims of the crash says officials are conducting an autopsy to determine if one of the girls was run over and killed by a rescue vehicle.

San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault says Sunday that senior San Francisco Fire Department officials notified him and his staff at the crash site on Saturday that one of the 16-year-olds may have been struck on the runaway.

Foucrault says an autopsy he expects to be completed by Monday will involve determining whether the girl's death was caused by injuries suffered in the crash or "a secondary incident." He says he did not get a close enough look at the victims on Saturday to know whether they had external injuries.

More than 180 people were taken to nine area hospitals, but the majority had relatively minor injuries.

As of Saturday evening the number of fatalities stood at two while at least five people were reported in critical condition.

Many passengers who had been on the plane are now leaving area hospitals and talking about their experience aboard the aircraft.

Some say they didn't have any idea the plane was going to crash before the accident occurred.

After the impact, passengers say they worked together to get off the plane safely.

Passenger Benjamen Levy said, "It was just not that kind of impact. It was like really hard. I felt like the wheels of the plane got taken out. There was a lot of noise and a lot of screaming . In my head it went in slow motion, I was just watching the whole scene in slow motion. After that it started to sink in, 'You've had a plane crash.  You're ok.  You're alive and you're sitting in your chair.'"

The scene has been secured and has been turned over to the FBI. Terrorism has been ruled out.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Flight 214 crashed while landing at 11:36 a.m. PDT. A video clip posted to YouTube showed smoke coming from a jet on the tarmac. Passengers could be seen jumping down the emergency slides.

Treating the injured

Forty-nine people were immediately rushed to emergency rooms. The closest is Mills-Peninsula Medical Center, just three miles from the airport.

A hospital spokesperson said ambulances brought 12 people to their emergency room - eight adults and four young people. Two were admitted, two were discharged and the remaining patients are being evaluated.

"The injuries sustained are mostly contusions, fractures and abrasions. All 12 are in stable condition," said Jill Antonides, Mills-Peninsula Medical Center. "Our hearts go out to the patients and their families. It's going to be a long recovery from this trauma, from this event, but we're here to help."

Representatives from the South Korean consulate have already been at the hospital to visit with patients.

Patients in critical condition were taken to San Francisco General Hospital because it is a trauma center.

NTSB sending investigators to SF airport crash

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman says federal investigators based in Los Angeles are traveling to San Francisco to investigate the crash landing of a South Korean airliner.

Hersman says she and other NTSB personnel in the nation's capital expect to arrive in San Francisco this evening.

She says they have not yet "determined what the focus of this investigation is."

Investigators from South Korea are being invited to participate in the probe.

She says the team's first job will be to collect information and document the accident scene.

Obama grateful to first responders at jet crash

President Barack Obama is expressing his gratitude to the first responders at the scene of the airliner crash in San Francisco.

The White House says in a statement that Obama has directed his team to stay in constant contact with federal, state and local partners as they investigate and respond to the accident.

The White House says the president's thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those affected by the crash.

See a press release from Asiana Airlines.

There were a total of 291 passengers (19 business class, 272 travel class) and 15 cabin crew aboard. The airline says there were 77 Korean citizens, 141 Chinese citizens, 61 US citizens and one Japanese citizen on board.

The fuselage remained intact, but was heavily damaged by fire after landing. Early reports indicated that the plane came in too low and that the tail may have struck a sea wall, shearing it off.

The flight was arriving from Seoul, South Korea, where the airline is based.

News reports indicate the plane came in very low on approach - up to several hundred feet lower than it should have been at one point. Skid marks and a debris field show the plane touched the ground before the runway.

All flights in and out of San Francisco have been canceled for the day.

According to reports, the pilot did not make a distress call prior to landing.