Investigators seek cause of deadly plane crash San Francisco

Evacuated passengers are seen on the tarmac as firefighting truck spray water on Asiana Airlines flight 214 as it sits on the runway burning at San Francisco International Airport in this July 6, 2013
Evacuated passengers are seen on the tarmac as firefighting truck spray water on Asiana Airlines flight 214 as it sits on the runway burning at San Francisco International Airport in this July 6, 2013

U.S. officials examined flight information recorders and began investigating the crash of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 that burst into flames upon landing in San Francisco, killing two teenaged Chinese students and injuring more than 180 people, officials said on Sunday.

There was no immediate indication of the cause of Saturday’s accident but Asiana said mechanical failure did not appear to be a factor. The airline declined to blame either the pilot or the San Francisco control tower.

Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the plane’s “black boxes” – the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder – had been recovered and were sent to Washington for analysis. The Federal Aviation Administration also was investigating and Asiana Airlines said on Sunday that Korean accident investigators were on their way to San Francisco.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said on Sunday there was no indication of a criminal act but it was too early to determine what went wrong.

“Everything is still on the table,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Investigators in coming days will interview the pilots and look at data from the black boxes, radar equipment and other information to determine the cause of the crash, she said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“It’s really important to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together,” Hersman said.

The plane was coming in from Seoul when witnesses said its tail appeared to hit the approach area of a runway that juts into San Francisco Bay. One witness said the plane appeared to be coming in too low and too fast.

The impact knocked off the plane’s tail and the aircraft appeared to bounce violently, scattering a trail of debris before coming to rest on the tarmac.

SERIOUS INTERIOR DAMAGE

Pictures taken by survivors showed passengers hurrying away from the wrecked plane. Thick smoke billowed from the fuselage and TV footage later showed the aircraft gutted and blackened by fire. Much of its roof was gone.

Interior damage to the plane also was extreme, Hersman said on CNN.

“You can see the devastation from the outside of the aircraft, the burn-through, the damage to the external fuselage,” she said. “But what you can’t see is the damage internally. That is really striking.”

The dead were identified as Ye Meng Yuan and Wang Lin Jia, both 16-year-old girls and described as Chinese nationals who are students, Asiana Airlines said. They had been seated at the rear of the aircraft, according to government officials in Seoul and Asiana.

The crash was the first fatal accident involving the Boeing 777, a popular long-range jet that has been in service since 1995. It was the first fatal commercial airline accident in the United States since a regional plane operated by Colgan Air crashed in New York in 2009.

“For now, we acknowledge that there were no problems caused by the 777-200 plane or (its) engines,” Yoon Young-doo, the president and CEO of the airline, told reporters on Sunday at the company headquarters on the outskirts of Seoul.

Asiana on Sunday said the flight, which had originated in Shanghai, had carried 291 passengers and 16 crew members. The passengers included 141 Chinese, 77 South Koreans, 64 U.S. citizens, three Indians, three Canadians, one French, one Vietnamese and one Japanese citizen.

Dale Carnes, assistant deputy chief of the San Francisco Fire Department, said 49 people were hospitalized with serious injuries. Another 132 suffered moderate and minor injuries.

Five people were in critical condition at San Francisco General Hospital, according to spokeswoman Rachael Kagan. She said a total of 52 people were treated for burns, fractures and internal injuries. Three people were critical at Stanford Hospital.

TOO LOW, TOO FAST

Survivor Benjamin Levy told a local NBC station he believed the Asiana plane had been coming in too low.

“I know the airport pretty well, so I realized the guy was a bit too low, too fast, and somehow he was not going to hit the runway on time, so he was too low … he put some gas and tried to go up again,” he said in a telephone interview.

“But it was too late, so we hit the runway pretty bad, and then we started going up in the air again, and then landed again, pretty hard.”

Levy said he opened an emergency door and ushered people out. “We got pretty much everyone in the back section of the plane out,” he said. “When we got out there was some smoke. There was no fire then. The fire came afterward.”

Vedpal Singh, a native of India, was on board the flight along with his wife and son when the aircraft struck the landing strip.

“Your instincts take over. You don’t know what’s going on,” said Singh, who had his arm in a sling as he walked through the airport’s international terminal and told reporters he had suffered a fractured collar bone.

Asiana, South Korea’s junior carrier, has had two other fatal crashes in its 25-year history.

A senior Asiana official said the pilot was Lee Jeong-min, a veteran pilot who has spent his career with the airline. He was among four pilots on the plane who rotated on two-person shifts during the 10-hour flight, the official said.

A San Francisco airport spokesman said that a component of the facility’s instrument landing system that tracks an incoming airplane’s glide path was not working on Saturday.

Pilots and air safety experts said the glide path technology was far from essential for a safe landing in good weather.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

Movies

Shia LaBeouf disorderly conduct case pushed to September

A judge on Thursday adjourned until September the disorderly conduct and harassment case against actor Shia LaBeouf, who was charged with disturbing a Broadway theater…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.