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Rescuers describe harrowing scene at SFO plane crash

  • An unidentified family member of one of two Chinese students killed in a crash of an Asiana Airlines' plane on Saturday, cries at the airline's counter as she and other family members check in for a flight to San Francisco, at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, China, Monday, July 8, 2013. The Asiana flight crashed upon landing Saturday, at San Francisco International Airport, and two of the 307 passengers aboard were killed. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

SAN FRANCISCO — Firefighters encountered smoke, leaking jet fuel and passengers coming down on chutes when they arrived at the Asiana jet crash at San Francisco International Airport that killed two people and injured more than 180.

Lt. Christine Emmons said Monday at a news conference that she and her partner ran up a chute into the plane after Saturday's crash of the Boeing 777 and found four passengers trapped in the back. The conditions in the plane were changing rapidly, with the fire coming down on rescuers and the smoke thickening as the trapped passengers were pulled out to safety, she said.

Investigators have determined that Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was traveling "significantly below" the target speed during its approach and that the crew tried to abort the landing just before it smashed onto the runway. What they don't yet know is whether the pilot's inexperience with the type of aircraft and at San Francisco's airport played a role.

Plane Crashes At SFO

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Officials said Sunday the probe was also focusing on whether the airport or plane's equipment also could have malfunctioned.

The South Korea government announced Monday that officials will inspect engines and landing equipment on all Boeing 777 planes owned by Asiana and Korean Air, the national carrier.

Also Sunday, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said he was investigating whether one of the two teenage passengers killed actually survived the crash but was run over by a rescue vehicle rushing to aid victims fleeing the burning aircraft. Remarkably, 305 of 307 passengers and crew survived the crash and more than a third didn't even require hospitalization. Only a small number were critically injured.

Investigators said that the weather was unusually fair for foggy San Francisco. The winds were mild, too. During the descent, with their throttles set to idle, the pilots never discussed having any problems with the plane or its positioning until it was too late.

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