Skip to main content

'I just crash landed at SFO. I'm ok. Surreal'

By Moni Basu, CNN
updated 8:36 PM EDT, Sun July 7, 2013
  • Samsung executive tweeted about the Asiana Flight 214's crash landing
  • Other passengers describe a harrowing experience
  • Witnesses at the airport and on other planes see crash up close
  • Some thought it was instant death for those on board

(CNN) -- Nearly three hours after the crash, David Eun walked through customs at San Francisco International Airport. By then, the adrenaline rush was subsiding enough that he could begin processing the enormity of it all.

He'd just survived a catastrophe.

The Samsung executive describes himself on his Twitter profile as being an "all-American Korean" a "pensive optimist" and a frequent flier.

He's used to getting on planes and crossing the Pacific. He'd been at the same airport in April for a weeklong trip to Seoul, where Samsung is headquartered.

Asiana Flight 214 might have been just another plane ride for Eun. Instead, the tech savvy businessman found himself bracing for life as something went terribly wrong in the landing. And he tweeted the experience.

Video shows plane's moment of impact
Surviving a crash
'The wheels ... were too low, too soon'
Witnesses describe plane crash

"I just crash landed at SFO. Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I'm ok. Surreal ..."

Other passengers on the plane described a harrowing experience.

Elliott Stone could see the tarmac below him. The angle of descent seemed too sharp. The pilot tried to raise it at the last minute, said another passenger.

In vain.

"And then right when it appeared to coast for the landing, all of a sudden the engine was off, like you sped up, like the pilot knew he was short. And then the back end just hit and flies up in the air and everybody's head goes up to the ceiling."

He said the back of the plane broke off. That's where several flight attendants were sitting.

Several people watched the plane crash from the airport or other nearby areas. Still others saw it up close, sitting in other planes on the tarmac. For them it was like watching a frightening movie. Only, it was all real.

Flight data recorders recovered from crash

Witnesses describe unusual landing

Everything looked normal at first. The plane was coming into the airport Saturday in a routine flight pattern. But then the wheels seemed too low too soon, said Dan Glickman.

When a plane lands, there is typically white smoke from the friction of the wheels. But there was a large plume of white smoke when Flight 214 touched down. Then people heard a pop and a fireball burst out from underneath the aircraft.

"It just pancaked immediately. It collapsed and then it slid," Glickman told CNN affiliate KTVU. "It just kept sliding and sliding and sliding. I was surprised it didn't come apart. It was unreal."

Danielle Wells also saw the plane go down.

"Literally just witnessed a plane crash start to finish. I cannot stop crying I can't believe this," she said on Twitter.

Kristina Stapchuck saw the crash from a window seat on another plane. She saw Flight 214 rock back and forth and the tail come off. Other parts came off and shattered everywhere on the runway. It looked like the plane was sliding on its belly all the way down the runway.

"It all happened so suddenly," she said.

People who watched it happen feared the worst. They could see the inside of the plane in orange glow from the fire. Smoke was billowing from the plane. One passenger on the plane shot a photograph that showed flames and smoke bursting out of the plane's windows.

Those outside thought it was instant death for everyone aboard. Flames and smoke were bursting out of many of the aircraft's windows.

Why the crash was survivable

Passengers dashed from aircraft

Eunice Bird Rah's father was on Flight 214. He sent her text messages telling her he was fine. He didn't want her to worry so he chose his words carefully.

"I think ... he didn't want me to know the full-on details of what was going on around him," Rah said.

Passengers huddled together and pushed open emergency exit doors, Stone said. Some didn't bother to use evacuation slides; they jumped directly out onto the tarmac to save themselves.

Ben Levy helped people out even though he had broken ribs. He tweeted a photo of fellow passengers sitting atop their bags. Behind them, the Asiana jet sat consumed in smoke.

At the airport, witnesses said they could see people running out.

"I was happy to see that some people were running out," said one man. "Then I went, 'Oh my god, some people lived.'

Then emergency responders and firefighters were all over the tarmac.

"They're evacuating the injured," Eun tweeted again. "Haven't felt this way since 9/11."

He was one of the lucky ones aboard Saturday. There were 291 passengers and 16 crew members on Flight 214.

"Friends, pls don't call right now. I'm fine," he tweeted.

"Most people are totally calm and trying to let the fire and rescue do their jobs," he said. "Just like during 9/11, most people are great and try to be helpful in crisis..."

The charred carcass of the jet was still on the runway. Many of Eun's fellow passengers were in Bay Area hospitals.

When he finally left customs, Eun began to think about it all -- and about all the people he cherished.

Expert: Shouldn't have been close to hitting seawall

CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Don Lemon contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Asiana Flight 214 crash
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Pilots botched the approach and landing of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco nearly a year ago, causing a crash that killed three people and injured 187 others, investigators concluded.
updated 2:09 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
The National Transportation Safety Board held a hearing to determine the cause of the 2013 Asiana Flight 214 plane crash.
updated 1:36 PM EST, Sun January 19, 2014
A group of passengers who were aboard an Asiana Airlines flight that crash-landed has sued aircraft manufacturer Boeing.
updated 12:26 PM EDT, Sun October 20, 2013
The firefighter who accidentally ran over and killed a 16-year-old girl who survived the crash will not be charged in the case.
updated 6:29 AM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
The U.S. Department of Transportation fined Asiana Airlines $500,000 for failing to assist families following the crash of Asiana flight 214 in San Francisco in July.
updated 5:43 AM EDT, Tue July 9, 2013
The two teen girls were close friends, each looking forward to a summer trip to California to improve their English.
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Tue July 9, 2013
After 10 long hours in the sky, the Jang children couldn't wait to get off the plane.
updated 6:34 AM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
I didn't expect my 5-year-old daughter to first learn about airplane crashes while we were in the air.
updated 6:42 AM EDT, Fri July 12, 2013
Shortly after Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed in San Francisco, passengers and witnesses pleaded with 911 responders to send help -- some frantically, some insistently.
Here's what we know about the crash landing, told through animation and graphics.
updated 10:29 AM EDT, Tue July 9, 2013
As a plume of black smoke billowed from Asiana Airlines flight 214 after it crash landed, images were captured of passengers collecting their carry-on items before evacuating.
updated 3:46 PM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
Inside the cockpit of the Airbus A380 at Le Bourget airport on June 12, 2005.
Pilots will need more cockpit training to become fully certified first officers for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines.
updated 2:00 AM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
Veteran flight attendant Lee Yoon Hye sensed something was awry as Flight 214 neared the San Francisco International Airport runway.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
As Asiana Airlines Flight 214 flew into San Francisco, the Boeing 777's 219 passengers didn't know that the man at the controls had never landed this kind of plane at this airport before.
updated 9:51 AM EDT, Mon July 8, 2013
"Look at that one -- look at how his nose is up in the air."
updated 8:41 PM EDT, Sun July 7, 2013
Of the 307 people on board, only two are confirmed dead.
updated 8:36 PM EDT, Sun July 7, 2013
Nearly three hours after the crash, David Eun walked through customs at San Francisco International Airport. By then, the adrenaline rush was subsiding enough that he could begin processing the enormity of it all.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri July 19, 2013
Photos from the scene show a trail of debris down the runway and people waiting for their loved ones.
updated 8:19 PM EDT, Sun July 7, 2013
Asiana Airlines had coped with a pair of deadly crashes over the past 20 years before a Boeing 777 crash landed in San Francisco and burst into flames on Saturday.