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Two dead, 181 hurt in San Francisco air crash

8:42 AM, Jul 7, 2013   |    comments
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UPDATE:

BEIJING - The two Chinese victims of the Asiana Flight 214 crash in San Francisco were identified Sunday as teenage schoolgirls in eastern China, headed to the USA for a two-week summer camp.

Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, both 16, were students at Jiangshan Middle School in Zhejiang province bordering Shanghai, reported China Central Television, citing a fax from Asiana Airlines, which operated the plane that crashed.

Of the 291 passengers on board, 141 were Chinese. At least 70 Chinese students and teachers were on the plane heading to summer camps, according to education authorities in China. Teacher Ye Lianjun told Chinese television that there were 34 people traveling in the Jiangshan Middle School group - five teachers and 29 students.

Anxious parents gathered Sunday around the school gate, said student Jiang Wenbin, 19.

"They are worried, and nervous, waiting for the news. They only have one kid in the family, so I understand them," Jiang said.


"One friend called me when he got off the plane, many of them are my good friends," he said before the two deaths were confirmed. "I am very worried about them, I wish them all safe."

The two victims' final postings on Chinese micro-blogging service Tencent Weibo drew interest Sunday.



On Friday, the day before the Jiangshan Middle Group departed Shanghai bound for San Francisco via Seoul, Wang Linjia wrote simply "Go", in English.

In another recent posting, she said the prospect of saying goodbye to old classmates left her overwhelmed by sadness. Wang often quoted from a modern fairy tale popular among young people for reflecting the joys and pain of growing up.

On Thursday, Ye Mengyuan, whose personal name, Mengyuan, means "dreams come true", made her final post - "444444". The number four is considered unlucky in Chinese as it sounds similar to the character for "death".

ORIGINAL STORY:

By William M. Welch, Jon Swartz and Gary Strauss, USA TODAY

(USA TODAY - SAN FRANCISCO) -- An Asiana Airlines flight from Seoul crashed on landing at San Francisco's airport Saturday, killing two passengers, injuring more than 180 and and forcing dozens of frightened passengers and crew to scamper from the heavily damaged aircraft before it was engulfed in smoke and flames.

There were 307 on board, including 16 crew. Officials said 123 escaped without injury and 181 were hospitalized or treated for injuries. Among the injured, 49 are in serious condition and five at San Francisco General Hospital, including a child, remain critical. Among the 47 others at San Francisco General, several were treated for minor injuries, including fractures and abrasions, and were released Saturday night.

"It was all over in 10 seconds," says Vedpa Singh, who suffered a fractured collarbone. "We heard a big bang, and it was over."

The cause of the crash has not been determined, but the FBI has has ruled out terrorism. The Boeing 777 appeared to have touched down tail-first and short of the runway. A sheered off tail section rested several hundred feet from the main body of the aircraft, and debris from the plane littered the runway. Passenger Janghyung Lee told USA Today that the aircraft rattled wildly before landing.

Images from the scene showed smoke billowing from the plane and emergency exits open from the plane's fuselage. A massive, gaping hole blackened by fire stretched along much of the plane's top.

The flight, which originated in Shanghai China before stopping in Seoul enroute to San Francisco, was carrying 61 U.S. citizens, 77 South Koreans and 141 Chinese. All passengers and crew were accounted for by Saturday night. It took several hours to account for everyone on the flight.

"We're lucky we have this many survivors,'' said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

It was the first fatal crash of a commercial airline in the U.S. since February 2009.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman declined comment on whether pilot error caused the crash. "We have not determined what the focus of this investigation is yet,'' she said before leaving Washington, D.C, with a crash site-bound team of investigators . "We will be looking at everything. Everything is on the table at this point.''

Hersman said the investigative team would look at all possible crash causes. "Obviously we have a lot of work to do,'' Hersman said before departing Washington for the crash scene.

The investigators will work with the FAA, the aircraft's manufacturer Boeing and Korea's Air and Accident Investigation Board, Hersman said. Analysts in Washington, D.C., will examine air-traffic control records, weather and aircraft maintenance issues, she said. Investigators on site will examine the aircraft, the cockpit data recorders and the scene.

San Francisco International Airport was closed for several hours, with incoming flights diverted to other airports, before reopening two of four runways.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in an e-mail that she had been scheduled to take the flight, but switched to a United flight to cash in air miles for family members. "We are OK. My friend on that flight is OK, too,'' Sandberg told USA TODAY.

Samsung executive David Eun, who was aboard the aircraft, was among the first to tweet photos and word of passengers. "Fire and rescue people all over the place. They're evacuating the injured. Haven't felt this way since 9/11.''

Asiana Airlines said on its Twitter account, "Our thoughts and prayers are with all the passengers, and flight crew on the flight. We hope to provide you with further info asap... We are currently investigating and will update with news as soon as possible.''

Boeing said in a tweet from its corporate account: "Our thoughts are with everyone affected by today's incident at SFO. We stand ready to assist the NTSB.''

Saturday's mishap was the first fatal accident involving a major commercial carrier in the U.S. since November 2001, when a American Airlines flight to the Dominican Republic crashed on takeoff in Queens, N.Y., killing all 260 people on board. The last fatal accident involving a commercial flight in the U.S. was Colgan Air Flight 3407, which crashed near Buffalo, killing 50 in 2009.

In another crash of a Boeing 777-200ER, British Airways flight 38 crashed just short of the runway at London's Heathrow on Jan. 17, 2008. That crash had no fatalities, but dozens were injured. That crash was blamed on ice crystals clogging the fuel line on a long flight from Beijing.

Asiana Airlines is based in Seoul. Its website says its Boeing 777 can carry up to 300 passengers. Asiana flies 12 B777-200ER twin-engine jets, which can fly 14 hours non-stop. The airline operates 79 aircraft and flies 91 international routes to 71 cities in 23 countries.

The FAA investigated two accidents involving Asiana within weeks of one another in November 1998.

In the first incident, on Nov. 11, 1998, an Asiana plane with 220 passengers and 18 crew aboard skidded into a parked plane after landing at Anchorage International Airport in Alaska. Federal investigators blamed the pilot for excessive taxi speed and inadequate maneuvering to avoid the parked plane.

On Nov. 30, 1998, an Asiana cargo plane struck and toppled a crane in the safety zone next to the taxiway after it landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The FAA faulted the co-pilot for misjudging the wing's clearance.

Welch reported from Los Angeles and Swartz from San Francisco International Airport; Contributing: Donna Leinwand Leger, Bart Jansen, Ben Mautzabaugh, Elizabeth Weise, Nancy Trejos and Nancy Blair, USA TODAY; Associated Press

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