2 die, 305 survive after airliner crashes, burns at San Francisco airport

Updated 10:39 AM EDT, Sun July 7, 2013

Story highlights

"It could have been much worse," San Francisco's mayor says

Asiana Airlines' Flight 214 was arriving from Seoul when it crashed

182 people total were treated at local hospitals; 123 were uninjured, says officials

Everyone who had been on the plane is now accounted for

CNN —  

It had been an uneventful 10-plus hour flight from Seoul, South Korea, approaching San Francisco’s airport on a clear summer day. Then, in a few horrifying seconds, that calm was shattered.

A fireball erupted after the Boeing 777 airliner hit the runway hard around 11:30 a.m., rocked back and forth, spun around, shearing off the plane’s tail. Scores of passengers and crew climbed out – some jumping, others sliding down evacuation chutes as flames and smoke billowed from the aircraft’s windows.

Two people were found dead outside the plane, according to San Francisco fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White. “My understanding is that they were found on the runway,” she said. The airline identified the dead girls as students Wang Linjia and Ye Mengyuan, both 16.

Somehow, 305 others survived.

Said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee: “This could have been much worse.”

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That’s an understandable sentiment for anyone who heard passenger and eyewitness accounts, or saw the distressing, distorted images showing what remained of Asiana Airlines Flight 214. Some photos painted an almost otherworldly scene – like one posted online by David Eun of passengers walking from the burning plane. Some dragged their carry-on bags. One man held his hands steady to snap a picture.

“I just crash landed at SFO,” Eun wrote. “Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I’m ok. Surreal…”

CNN iReporter Timothy Clark watched from an eighth-floor balcony of a nearby hotel. He recalled hearing a bang, seeing a “dust cloud,” then seeing “people running from the plane, then flames.”

Elliott Stone was one of them. He was “10 seconds away from being home” when the airplane dipped “kind of sharp,” followed by another adjustment “and then just boom, the back end just hit and flies up in the air and everybody’s head goes up to the ceiling.”

The first announcement “was everybody calm,” Stone said, but he and others unbuckled anyway. He told CNN he jumped out a door, before slides had deployed and before first responders had arrived. When they did, they saw some people climbing out of San Francisco Bay around the airport, Hayes-White said.

Video taken soon after the crash and posted on YouTube showed dark gray smoke rising from the plane, which was upright on its belly, with no landing gear evident.