Total Pageviews

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Survivors of Asiana Flight 214 Describe Escape From Burning Plane

When Asiana Flight 214 crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, Fey Xion was sitting with her 8-year-old son in Row 31, expecting she was going to know what “it felt like to die.”

In an interview with a Fox television news affiliate in Los Angeles, Ms. Xion described how her son jolted her into action. “He's so brave,” Ms. Xion told reporters at San Francisco General Hospital after being released for treatment of her injuries on Monday. “He told me, ‘Mom, we must go out' and he ran out of the plane. And he jumped down first and then I come out.”

Two days after the crash landing that killed two 16-year-old passengers and injured more than 180 others, more passengers and crew members were describing their harrowing escape as smoked filled the cabin and they struggled to get out of rows of seats that collapsed onto each other. A flight attendant told how members of the flight crew had to use axes to properly activate the emergency slides on the Boeing 777. Of the 307 passengers and crew members on the flight from South Korea, 305 survived.

The National Transportation Safety Board posted multiple images of the crash scene on Twitter and video on YouTube.

The National Safety Transportation Board posted video of the crash scene.

Wen Zhang also described to Fox News 11 her escape with her young son. She was sitting in Row 40 with her 4-year-old, whose left leg was broken as the row of seats in front of them collapsed on them. They escaped through a gaping hole in the fuselage. “A big hole near the bathroom, most of the bathroom is gone,” she said

In this video uploaded to YouTube, taken by Jennifer Solis just moments after the crash, people can be seen going down the inflatable slides and running from the plane as emergency vehicles arrive to douse the spreading flames.

But the evacuation did not begin smoothly because the slides initially inflated inside the cabin instead of outside, pinning two flight attendants to the floor.

According to The Associated Press
, the cabin manager, Lee Yoon-hye, who sustained a broken tailbone and was the last person to leave the plane, said that crew members deflated the slides with axes to deploy them properly and rescue their colleagues. She told of several dramatic moments during the evacuation, including putting out fires as she ushered passengers off the plane. She said a flight attendant put a child on her back as they went down the slide to safety. The Associated Press reported:

Lee Yoon-hye, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 flight attendant and cabin manager, spoke at a news conference in San Francisco on Sunday.Yonhanews/European Pressphoto Agency Lee Yoon-hye, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 flight attendant and cabin manager, spoke at a news conference in San Francisco on Sunday.

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,” Lee said. “That bang felt harder than a normal landing. It was a very big shock. Afterward, there was another shock and the plane swayed to the right and to the left.”

Lee said that after the captain ordered an evacuation, she knew what to do. “I wasn't really thinking, but my body started carrying out the steps needed for an evacuation,” she said. “I was only thinking about rescuing the next passenger.”

When Lee saw that the plane was burning, she was calm. “I was only thinking that I should put it out quickly. I didn't have time to feel that this fire was going to hurt me,” she said.

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 double-check 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,” she said.

In a statement released on Monday, Asiana Airlines said that it was “dedicating great efforts to support and ensure a swift and thorough investigation.”

The special charter flight dispatched by Asiana Airlines yesterday at 13:33 (Korea Time) carrying twelve support staff, eight government inspectors and members of the Korean media has arrived on location in San Francisco. Its passengers have begun supporting the victims and their families and assisting in the investigation.

Asiana Airlines is providing airfare and lodging for families of the passengers. In the event that the number of family members seeking support increases, Asiana is also preparing to operate additional charter flights.

Two Korean family members departed for the United States yesterday. Another four are expected to depart today followed by an additional four on Wednesday. Asiana Airlines is also supporting twelve Chinese family members and six Chinese government officials, who will depart from Shanghai for the United States (via Incheon) today.

48 injured persons are being treated at local hospitals in the San Francisco area. Each hospital is staffed with dedicated personnel and transportation to provide the utmost support for the victims and their families.

Asiana Airlines deeply regrets this accident and is dedicating great efforts to support and ensure a swift and thorough investigation.

As my colleagues, Matthew L. Wald and Norimitsu Onishi report, Deborah A.P. Hersman, head of the National Safety Transportation Board, said a significant part of the plane's tail was found in the water in San Francisco Bay.

Deborah A. P. Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, delivering an update to reporters Monday.

The safety board is also investigating a crash in Alaska that killed a pilot and all nine passengers less than 24 hours after the crash in San Francisco, as my colleague Michael Roston reports.