A Boeing 777 plane carrying 291 crash landed at San Francisco airport this afternoon reportedly killing at least two passengers and injuring 61.
The tail of the Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 flight from South Korea was ripped off in the tragic accident around 11.30am PDT and a huge blaze tore through the plane which onlookers described as spinning around on impact.
Horrific photographs of the damage emerged moments after the crash as well as cellphone videos of the plane as it spun out of control. At least two of those on-board were killed with a further 61 injured, local broadcaster KTVU.COM reported.
A San Francisco General Hospital official told the Associated Press that at least 10 people were in a critical condition including two children and eight adults. Six of the patients are female and four are male. San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White said during a press conference Saturday evening that 190 people used emergency slides and walked away from the wreck. However, she added that at least 60 people remain unaccounted for at this time, but they are not presumed dead.
Of the 190 people who left the wrecked plane to safety, 82 have been transported to hospitals in San Francisco and San Mateo with injuries ranging from abrasions to fractures and possible internal damage. According to Asiana Airlines, 141 of the passengers aboard Flight 214 are Chinese, 77 are South Korean, 61 are American and one is Japanese.
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with passengers. We are deeply saddened by this incident,’ said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee during the news briefing.
A class of vacationing school children were on board while one passenger relayed what happened to a relative via a plane phone, according to CBS San Francisco. Sixteen crew members were on board the craft.
This aerial photo shows the wreckage of the Asiana Flight 214 airplane after it crashed at the San Francisco International Airport
Tail snapped off: The plane that was carrying 291 passengers is missing its tail section
A fire gutted the aircraft cabin after the tail snapped off the plane on landing. The Boeing 777 skidded along the runway
Disaster: It is not known what caused the crash but eyewitnesses reported seeing the plane come down tail-first before the runway
Fatal crash: At least two people have been confirmed dead in the crash at San Francisco International Airport this morning, according to local reports
Major accident: The plane which may have been carrying up to 450 passengers crash landed at San Francisco today
Landing: The plane failed to land safely and witnesses described watching the tail and then the wings being ripped off as it hurtled along the runway on its belly
Tail snapped: Onlookers said that the plane's tail snapped off when the plane crashed down near where the runway meets the water at the airport
Several other passengers managed to escape unscathed and could be seen fleeing down emergency inflatable slides. A U.S. Coast Guard team was also dispatched to search the nearby water. It wasn't immediately clear what happened to the plane as it was landing, but some eyewitnesses said the aircraft seemed to lose control and that the tail may have hit the ground.
Audio recordings of conversations between the airport's control 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, CNN reported. However, when the plane ditched down near the water, no fire trucks were there to meet the flight, raising questions about the state of radio equipment aboard the Boeing 777.
Intact: The plane that ended up crashing in San Francisco was an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 similar to the one in the photo
Flight plan: This shot from the flight tracking site FlightAware shows the departure and expected arrival times of the Asiana plane
Sheared off: Investigators pass the detached tail and landing gear of Asiana Flight 214
Unsettling news: San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White (right) said that at least 60 passengers remain unaccounted for
NTSB officials have said that at this point, it is too early to tell what exactly happened on board the aircraft. Among the questions that the NTSB 'go team' will have to answer is whether a human error on the part of the pilot played a part in the crash.
A huge smoke cloud could be seen for miles from the site of San Francisco International and tourists in the airport terminal and on waiting flights could only look on in horror as the plane spun across the runway on its belly.
During a short news briefing in Washington DC just before 6pm, NTSB Chairwoman Debbie Hersman said that three members of an investigative team will be arriving on the scene of the crash later this evening to begin the probe.
Lucky escape: An elderly woman in a wheelchair is seen talking to paramedics (left) after getting off the crashed aircraft (right)
A young passenger from the crashed Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 talks to the press at San Francisco International Airport before being interrupted by the police and escorted to a waiting room designated for families and friends of passengers
Charred remains: An airliner passes the wreckage of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 at San Francisco International Airport
Disaster area: This aerial photo shows the wreckage of the Asiana Flight 214 airplane, right, after it crashed, as another plane approaches at the San Francisco International Airport
Stranded: Hermann Heider, from left, sits next to Alphonse Roig, wife Christine Roig, and their daughters Marine, 15, and Lara, 12, as they wait for news on their British Airways flight after Asiana Flight 214 crash
Waiting game: Bob Merberg, foreground, sits with son Oren, 19, center, and daughter Maya, 16, after their flight to Rochester, New York was canceled after Asiana Flight 214 crashed
The official also said that the investigation into the crash will likely involve representatives from Boeing and South Korea. FBI Special Agent David Johnson, who is leading the investigation, said: ‘At this point in time there is no indication of terrorism. We currently have all our resources to assist.’
Onlookers said much of the tail came off in the crash while others reported seeing the plane's fuselage spinning around as it journeyed across the concourse.
The entire ceiling of the plane was destroyed in the blaze that immediately followed. Emergency workers rushed to its aid and doused it with white foam to try and control the flames. They were able to help those who were miraculously able to escape the wreckage and were seen fleeing down emergency slides. According to an excerpt of the radio recorded at the airport tower the plane was cleared to lane at 18.21, just over a minute later the flight called in and appears to have called for emergency assistance.
Witnesses spoke of their horror.
'The plane started coming in at an odd angle, there was a huge bang and you could see the cloud of huge black smoke,' Kate Belding, told the broadcaster.
Response: A huge emergency response has been launched with firefighters and paramedics rushing to assist those on board
Near the water: The plane crashed just before reaching the runaway just beyond the shoreline
'It was a horrible thud,' Kelly Thompson, who saw it unfold from the parking lot of the Westin Hotel added. 'The airliner bounced and then slid to a stop on the runway.'
'It didn't manage to straighten out before hitting the runway,' Stephanie Turner, who was in a nearby hotel and witnessed the flight told ABC News. 'So the tail of the plane hit the runway, and it cartwheeled and spun and the tail broke off...I mean we were sure that we had just seen a lot of people die. It was awful.
'And it looked like the plane had completely broken apart,' she said. 'There were flames and smoke just billowing.'
Danielle Wells tweeted: 'I just saw a plane crash start to finish. I can't stop crying, I can't believe this.' One witness Jennifer Sorgen said: 'It hit the end of the runway by the water and the tail broke off at that point. It continued down the runway on its belly then proceeded to make 360 spin.'
An onlooker named Kristina Stapchuck told CNN it looked like the tires split and the plane leaned back on the tail before the tail broke off. Others described it as 'cartwheeling' across the runway.
Wreckage: According to local reports two were killed in the crash of a large passenger jet flying into San Francisco from South Korea
Asiana flight: The passenger jet crash landed after seemingly suffering no issues while in the air
Debris: Bits of the large 777 were thrown from the plane
One witness told CNN that there didn't seem to be any preparations for a crash landing before the plane came in suggesting it was an issue that only emerged on landing.
The weather conditions were also described as ideal for San Francisco airport which can often be blighted with fog and poor visibility.
Luckily no other standing planes were caught in the accident despite dozens waiting to take off from the major airport. The plane departed Incheon airport near South Korea's capital around 10 hours ago and was due to land at 9.45am on the West Coast. All flights in and out of San Francisco were temporarily cancelled with several being diverted to nearby Oakland International. At 2.30pm PDT the airport said it was looking to open two runways to allow limited arrivals and departures.
Airport officials urged travelers to check their flight status online.
Face CEO Sheryl Sandberg was supposed to be on the flight but decided to change her flight last minute so she could use air miles on a United flight instead, according to her post on Facebook.
'Taking a minute to be thankful and explain what happened. My family, colleagues Debbie Frost, Charlton Gholson and Kelly Hoffman and I were originally going to take the Asiana flight that just crash-landed. We switched to United so we could use miles for my family's tickets. Our flight was scheduled to come in at the same time, but we were early and landed about 20 minutes before the crash.'
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Crash landing: The plane pictured on the runway at San Francisco airport
Smoke cloud: Smoke from the plane crash could be seen for miles
David Eun, the executive vice president of Samsung, was on the flight when it crashed and posted on Twitter minutes later. 'I just crash landed at SFO. Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I'm ok. Surreal...' he wrote.
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 joined the oneWorld alliance, anchored by American Airlines and British Airways. 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. The airline's website says its 777s can carry between 246 to 300 passengers.
The last time a large U.S. airline lost a plane in a fatal crash was an American Airlines Airbus A300 taking off from JFK in 2001.
Smaller airlines have had crashes since then. The last fatal U.S. crash was a Continental Express flight operated by Colgan Air, which crashed into a house near Buffalo, N.Y. on Feb. 12, 2009. The crash killed all 49 people on board and one man in a house.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team of investigators to San Francisco to probe the crash. NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said Saturday that NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman would head the team.
Katie Davies and Snejana Faberov, Daily Mail