Two Chinese students were killed and 182 others injured when an Asiana Airlines plane with three Indians among 307 on board hit the runway, smashed into pieces and engulfed by flames while landing at San Francisco airport.
Over 300 people on flight OZ214, however, miraculously escaped from the burned-out wreckage of the South Korean airlines’ long-range Boeing 777-200, using evacuation slides.
Asiana, second in size to national carrier Korean Air, has confirmed two female Chinese teenagers have died.
Yoon Young-doo, the president of Asiana Airlines, said the two passengers were in their teens and were believed to have been seated toward the back of the plane.
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, quoting a preliminary report said two students from east China’s Zhejiang Province died in the plane crash.
Based on information obtained from their boarding passes, two female middle school students from Jiangshan City, Zhejiang Province, died in the accident, a reply from Asiana Airlines’ head office in China to the Jiangshan municipal government said.
But the identities of the dead have not been confirmed by DNA tests yet, the report said.
San Francisco fire chief Joanne Hayes-White said 182 people were injured and 123 were unhurt.
“When we had arrived on scene the chutes had already been deployed, and we observed multiple numbers of people coming down the chutes and walking to their safety, which was a good thing,” she said.
At least five people were listed in critical condition at hospitals, including at San Francisco General Hospital, the region’s main trauma centre.
Three Indians were also on board the ill-fated flight of Asiana Airlines from Seoul to San Francisco.
Indian Ambassador to South Korea Vishnu Prakash said that there were three Indian passengers on board the plane and one of them suffered collar bone fracture.
“ASIANA mishap at SFO: 3 Indians on board too. 1 suffered collar bone fracture & other minor injuries. Wish ASIANA gives out complete info,” he wrote on micro blogging site Twitter.
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.
“It’s miraculous we survived,” Mr. Singh, who suffered a fractured collarbone and had his arm was in a sling, was quoted as saying by the U.S. media.
The flight originated in Shanghai, China and stopped in Seoul before crashing at San Francisco International Airport yesterday morning.
There were 16 crew members on the flight, in addition to 291 passengers, according to Asiana Airlines. The manifest included 141 Chinese passengers, 77 South Koreans and 61 Americans etc, Asiana Airlines said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear what caused this plane to lose control on a clear summer day.
While the sequence of events remains unclear, it appeared the plane landed and then crashed on San Francisco International Airport’s Runway 28L, said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown.
Television footage of the scene showed debris strewn on the runway and smoke pouring from the jet, as fire crews sprayed a white fire retardant into gaping holes in the aircraft’s roof.
One engine and the tail fin appeared to have broken away from the main wreckage.
“The Airlines is currently investigating the specific cause of the incident,” Asiana Airlines said, adding that it will continue to cooperate with the investigation and has established an emergency response centre at its headquarters.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has a full go-team to San Francisco, to investigate the crash.
“The crash occurred while the aircraft was landing at San Francisco International Airport,” it said in a statement.
“We have not determined what the focus of this investigation is yet... Everything is on the table at this point. The team will include people focused on operations; human performance; survival factors; airport operations; and aircraft systems, structure and power,” the NTSB chairwoman, Deborah Hersman, told reporters in Washington.
Law-enforcement authorities said there is no indication of any link to terrorism.
“At this point in time there is no indication of terrorism involved. The FBI will be working closely with the NTSB to determine the cause of this incident,” FBI special agent David Johnson said.
Soon after the crash, U.S. President Barack Obama was made aware of the incident by Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.
Extending its deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who perished in the accident, Boeing said it will join the NTSB at their request to provide technical assistance to their investigation.
Thousands of passengers were stranded at San Francisco International Airport after the crash, which shut down its runways for much of the afternoon.
The Boeing 777 is a twin-engine jetliner and one of the world’s most popular long-distance planes, often used for flights of at least a dozen hours, carrying passengers from one continent to another.