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.
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.
Seven seconds before the Boeing 777 struck down, a member of the flight crew made a call to increase the jet's lagging speed, National Transportation Safety Board chief Deborah Hersman said at a briefing based on the plane's cockpit and flight data recorders. Three seconds later came a warning that the plane was about to stall.
Two-and-a-half seconds later, the crew attempted to abort the landing and go back up for another try. The air traffic controller guiding the plane heard the crash that followed almost instantly, Hersman said.
Federal and local authorities plan to release more information Monday morning about the investigation and the initial response.
While investigators from both the U.S. and South Korea are in the early stages of an investigation that will include a weekslong examination of the wreckage and alcohol tests for the crew, the news confirmed what survivors and other witnesses had reported: a slow-moving airliner flying low to the ground.
"We are not talking about a few knots" difference between the aircraft's target landing speed of 137 knots, or 157 mph (250 kph), and how fast it was going as it came in for a landing, Hersman said.