The evacuation of Asiana flight 214 began badly. Even before the mangled jetliner began filling with smoke, two evacuation slides on the doors inflated inside the cabin instead of outside, pinning two flight attendants to the floor.

Cabin manager Lee Yoon-hye, apparently the last person to leave the plane, said crew members deflated the slides with axes to rescue their colleagues, one of whom seemed to be choking beneath the weight of a slide.

It was just one of the moments of drama described Sunday by Ms. Lee of a remarkable evacuation that saved 305 of the 307 people on the plane that crashed on Saturday while landing in San Francisco.

One flight attendant put a scared elementary schoolboy on her back and slid down a slide, said Ms. Lee, in the first comments by a crew member since the crash of the Boeing 777. A pilot helped another injured flight attendant off the plane after the passengers had escaped. Ms. Lee herself worked to put out fires and usher passengers to safety despite a broken tailbone that kept her standing throughout a news briefing with mostly South Korean reporters at a San Francisco hotel. She said she didn’t know how bad she was hurt until a doctor at a San Francisco hospital later treated her.

It was still unclear if the pilot’s inexperience with the aircraft and airport played a role, Ms. Lee (40), who has nearly 20 years’ experience with Asiana, said she knew seconds before impact that something was wrong with the plane.

“Right before touchdown, I felt like the plane was trying to take off. I was thinking ‘what’s happening?’ and then I felt a bang,” Ms. Lee said. “After the captain ordered an evacuation, Ms. Lee said she knew what to do. “I wasn’t really thinking, but my body started carrying out the steps needed for an evacuation,” Ms. Lee said. “I was only thinking about rescuing the next passenger.”

Ms. Lee said she was the last person off the plane and that she tried to approach the back of the aircraft before she left to make sure that no one was left inside. But when she moved to the back of the plane, a cloud of black, toxic smoke made it impossible.

“It looked like the ceiling had fallen down.”

More than a third of the people onboard didn’t require hospitalisation, and only a small number were critically injured.

The San Francisco fire chief, Joanne Hayes-White, praised the cabin manager, who she talked to just after the evacuation.

“She was so composed I thought she had come from the terminal,” Ms. Hayes-White told reporters in a clip posted to YouTube. “She wanted to make sure that everyone was off. ... She was a hero.”

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