Asiana Airlines does not believe that the fatal crash of one of its Boeing 777 planes in San Francisco on Saturday was caused by mechanical failure, although it refused to be drawn on whether the fault lay with pilot error.
“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 a media conference on Sunday at the company headquarters.
Asiana said the two people who died in the crash were female Chinese teenagers who had been seated at the back of the aircraft.
Yoon declined to comment directly on whether the crash was due to pilot error but said the three captains on the aircraft had been fully trained in compliance with Korean regulations and had more than 10,000 flying hours of experience between them.
Yoon also declined to say whether he believed the crash could have been caused by an error by air traffic controllers at San Francisco.
Initial reports said two people were killed and more than 70 injured when the Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crashed on landing at San Francisco International Airport.
If confirmed, it would be the first fatal accident involving a Boeing 777, a family of twin-engined long-haul aircraft which has been in service for the past 18 years.
With more than five million flights, according to Boeing, it remains one of the industry’s solid workhorses.
Air Crash In San Francisco Causes Confusion, Frayed Nerves
Bystanders watching an Asiana Boeing 777 flight make a seemingly routine approach to a San Francisco runway were stunned to see it come in fast and hit the ground hard on Saturday, while on board, passengers’ survival instincts took over.
The crash at San Francisco International Airport left two people dead, while more than 180 people were transported to area hospitals, including many with serious injuries.
Vedpal Singh, a native of India, was on board the flight along with his wife and son when the aircraft struck the landing strip hard.
“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.
“I’m very, very thankful to God,” he said.
Singh lives in South Korea and had taken the flight for a vacation to California. He said that his son was fine but he had not yet been reunited with his wife.
Elliott Stone, a passenger on board the plane, told CNN that he thought the aircraft approached the airport “a little high” and made a sharp descent.
“All of a sudden, boom, the back end just hit and flies up into the air and everyone’s head goes up the ceiling,” Stone told CNN.
Greg Claxton, 39, of Sarasota, Florida, was among those who witnessed the crash from a shuttle bus traveling from his hotel to the airport.
“I saw a plane coming in really fast, really hard,” Claxton said. “It appeared to land, spin and then fire. I instantly was praying for those people on board.”
Claxton added that he ran off the shuttle. Others on board were crying at the sight of the crash.
After the crash, some reflected on how the disaster could have been worse. “It is incredible and very lucky that we have so many survivors,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee told reporters.
Passengers who remained at the airport and family members who rushed to join them dealt with their frayed nerves. Some collected themselves at the airport’s “Reflection Room,” where workers from the Salvation Army were on hand to offer comfort to those involved in the crash.
“They are in shock, they’re telling their stories,” said Salvation Army Major Wayne Frodenberg, a disaster services coordinator for the organization. “It’s quiet, people are sort of decompressing.”
The Salvation Army was providing shoes to some passengers who lost their footwear in the crash, he said.
Most on board the Asiana Airlines flight 214 that crashed were Chinese, South Korean or American, and the two dead were reported to be Chinese citizens.