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Asiana Air flight crashes, catches fire while landing at San Francisco airport

  • Fire crews work the crash site of Asiana Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Saturday, July 6, 2013. ((AP Photo/Bay Area News Group, John Green))

SAN FRANCISCO — Police officers threw utility knives up to crew members inside the burning wreckage of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 so they could cut away passengers' seat belts. Passengers jumped down emergency slides, escaping from thick billowing smoke.

And amid the chaos, some urged fellow passengers to keep calm, even as flames tore through the Boeing 777's fuselage.

As investigators try to determine what caused the crash of Flight 214 that killed two passengers Saturday at San Francisco International Airport, the accident left many wondering how nearly all 307 people aboard were able to make it out alive.

Plane Crashes At SFO

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"It's miraculous we survived," said passenger Vedpal Singh, who had a fractured collarbone and whose arm was in a sling.

Investigators took the flight data recorder to Washington, D.C., overnight to begin examining its contents for clues to the last moments of the flight, officials said. They also plan to interview the pilots, the crew and passengers.

"I think we're very thankful that the numbers were not worse when it came to fatalities and injuries," said National Transportation Safety Board chief Deborah Hersman on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. "It could have been much worse."

Hersman said investigators are looking into what role the shutdown of a key navigational aid may have played in the crash. She said the glide slope — a ground-based aid that helps pilots stay on course while landing — had been shut down since June.

She said pilots were sent a notice warning that the glide slope wasn't available. Hersman told CBS' "Face the Nation" that there were many other navigation tools available to help pilots land. She says investigators will be "taking a look at it all."

Since the crash, clues have emerged in witness accounts of the planes approach and video of the wreckage, leading one aviation expert to say the aircraft may have approached the runway too low and something may have caught the runway lip — a seawall at the foot of the runway.

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