NTSB recovers black boxes as it hunts for answers in Asiana Airlines crash that left 2 dead, at least 182 injured
A team from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived Sunday on the scene of a deadly plane crash at San Francisco International Airport to begin a formal investigation into why the Boeing 777 plane from South Korea crash-landed into the runway, killing two and injuring at least 182.
NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman told Fox News the agency is assessing the damage and has recovered the black box recordings from the plane’s cockpit.
“The cockpit data recording gives a sense of the conversations, the workload and what was going on between pilots not just in the moments of the crash but in the minutes and hours before,” Hersman said. “If the data’s good, it will help guide our investigation.”
Asiana Airlines Flight 214 slammed into the runway on Saturday morning, breaking off its tail and catching fire before slumping to a stop that allowed some passengers to flee down emergency slides into thick smoke and a trail of debris. Firefighters doused the flames that burned through the fuselage with foam and water, and police officers on the ground threw utility knives up to crew members so they could cut the seat belts of those who remained trapped as rescue crews removed the injured.
San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee said at a news conference Saturday evening that all 291 passengers and 16 crew members had been accounted for.
Chinese state media identified the two passengers killed as Ye Mengyuan and Wan Linjia, students from Jiangshan Middle School in eastern China. The girls are both reported to be 16 years old.
South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport released the identities of the two pilots flying the jetliner at the time of the crash. The two were identified as Lee Jeong-min and Lee Gang-guk. The ministry said that four pilots were on board and rotated in two-person shifts during the flight from Seoul, South Korea, which was estimated to last more than 10 hours.
Asiana CEO Yoon Young-doo offered an apology during a televised news conference, where he bowed while saying, “I am bowing my head and extending my deep apology” to the passengers, their families and the South Korean people over the crash.”
Yoon said that it will take time to determine the cause of the crash. But when asked about the possibility of engine or mechanical problems, he said he doesn’t believe they could have been the cause. He said the plane was bought in 2006 but didn’t provide further details or elaborate. Asiana officials later said the plane was also built that year.
Yoon also said that the Flight 214 pilots are all veterans, with more than 10,000 hours of flight experience. “And one pilot has 9,000, almost 10,000 hours’ experience,” he said.
It was not immediately clear what happened to Asiana Flight 214, but witnesses said that the plane appeared to sway back and forth, and kick up dust during the landing. Initial reports indicated that the plane’s tail broke off from some impact. An aviation safety expert interviewed by the Associated Press suggested that part of the plane may have hit a seawall at the end of the runway.
Benjamin Levy, who told KNTV he was aboard the flight, recalled approaching the runway "too low, too soon."
"We were maybe 5 meters, 10 meters above the water way still out of the landing area. And so when the pilot realized it, he put some more gas to try to correct and lift up the plane again, but it was too late. So we hit the runway pretty bad, and then we started going back up in the air again and then landed again pretty hard," Levy said.
Kate Belding, who was jogging a few miles away, said she thought: "Oh my God. That plane is crashing."
"I couldn’t really tell what happened, but you saw the wings going up and (in) a weird angle."
Moments after the violent landing, some of the passengers were able to escape via inflatable ramps, while others were taken to area hospitals.
Vedpal Singh, 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.
"We knew something was horrible wrong," said Singh, who suffered a fractured collarbone and had his arm in a sling.
"It’s miraculous we survived," he said.
A visibly shaken Singh said the plane went silent before people tried to get out any way they could. His 15-year-old son said luggage tumbled from the overhead bins. The entire incident lasted about 10 seconds.
San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White said the two who died were found on "the exterior" of the plane. "Having surveyed that area, we’re lucky that there hasn’t been a greater loss," she said.
Officials said 182 people were taken to area hospitals. Airport spokesman Doug Yakel said 49 people were critically injured.
The flight originated in Shanghai, China, and stopped over in Seoul, South Korea, before coming to San Francisco, airport officials said. The airline said there were 16 crew members aboard and 291 passengers. South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said that the plane’s passengers included 141 Chinese, 77 South Koreans, 61 Americans, three Canadians, three from India, one Japanese, one Vietnamese and one from France, while the nationalities of the remaining three haven’t been confirmed. Thirty of the passengers were children.
David Eun, a Samsung executive who was aboard the flight, sent out an online message immediately after the landing.
“I just crash-landed at SFO," Eun said. "Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I’m OK.”
President Obama, who was at Camp David in Maryland, was informed of the crash and was being kept up to date by local, state and federal authorities, the White House said.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said she, her family and several colleagues had been scheduled for the flight but had switched at the last minute.
"Taking a minute to be thankful and explain what happened," Sandberg wrote in a Facebook post. "My family, colleagues Debbie Frost, Charlton Gholson and Kelly Hoffman and I were originally going to take the Asiana flight that just crash-landed."
TV news footage showed the top of the fuselage was burned away and the entire tail gone. One engine appeared to have broken away and pieces of the tail were strewn about the runway. Passengers could be seen jumping down the inflatable emergency slides. Fire trucks could be seen spraying white fire retardant on the wreckage.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown says Flight 214 was supposed to land on runway 28 left at San Francisco International Airport at 11:26 local time. Its flight itinerary was from Shanghai to Seoul and San Francisco. She said it appeared the plane landed and then crashed.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye offered her condolences to the families of passengers and said her government would make all necessary efforts to help handle the aftermath, according to her spokeswoman Kim Haing.
"I offer my deep condolences to the families of the passengers who suffered from the unexpected Asiana plane crash," South Korean President Park Geun-hye said, according to her spokeswoman Kim Haing. Park said that the South Korean government will make all necessary efforts to help handle the aftermath, according to Kim.
Asiana is a South Korean airline, second in size to national carrier Korean Air. It has recently tried to expand its presence in the United States, and is a member of the Star Alliance, which is anchored in the U.S. by United Airlines.
The 777-200 is a long-range plane from Boeing. The twin-engine aircraft is one of the world’s most popular long-distance planes, often used for flights of 12 hours or more, from one continent to another. It is a smaller, wide-body jet that can travel long distances without refueling and is typically used for long flights over water. The airline’s website says its 777s can carry between 246 to 300 passengers.
A tweet from Boeing said the company’s thoughts are with those affected by the crash. “Our thoughts are with everyone affected by today’s incident at SFO,” Boeing said on its Twitter account. “We stand ready to assist the NTSB.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
Via: Fox News