NTSB: Asiana crew calls twice to abort landing before crash

Posted at 4:22 PM, Jul 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-11 18:22:37-04

By Ed Payne

(CNN) — An in-depth review of the cockpit voice recorder of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 shows the crew called twice for a “go around,” an aborted landing, before crash landing at San Francisco International Airport, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said Thursday.

The first internal call among the pilots about aborting the landing came three seconds before the crash and a second call was made 1.5 seconds before impact, she said.

Additionally, the pilot at the controls of Flight 214 told investigators that at about 500 feet before crash landing, he briefly saw a bright light “that could have been a reflection of the sun,” but he wasn’t sure, Hersman said.

The pilot told investigators he did not believe the light affected his ability to fly the plane, as he could see inside the cockpit, she said.

‘There are no ambulances out here’: 911 calls detail horror of Asiana crash

Shortly after Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed in San Francisco, passengers and witnesses pleaded with 911 responders to send help — some frantically, some insistently.

“I’m reporting an airplane crash at SFO (San Francisco International Airport),” an early witness said in calls released by the California Highway Patrol.

“An airplane crash at SFO?” a dispatcher asked.

“Yeah. We were hiking on a trail outside Pacifica, and we heard a giant explosion, and … an airplane had crashed right there at SFO.”

Another caller dialed 911, thinking the response was taking too long.

“We still don’t see any firemen or anything,” another witness said.

“We are responding, trust me,” the operator responded.

Moments before, the Boeing 777’s main landing gear slammed into a seawall between the airport and San Francisco Bay, spinning the aircraft 360 degrees as it broke into pieces and eventually caught fire.

Those who could do so poured out of the plane in the aftermath, dialing for help as they escaped.

“We are at the San Francisco airport, and our airplane just crashed upon landing, and we think we need someone here, someone here as soon as possible,” a passenger said.

The dispatcher asks: Which runway?

“I don’t know what runway. We just literally ran out of the airplane.”

First responders were on the scene two minutes after the crash to tend to the injured, National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said Wednesday. About a minute later, there were firefighters equipped to douse the flames.

“We just got in a plane crash, and there are a bunch of people who need help, and there is not enough medics,” a frantic caller said. “There is a woman out here on the street, on the runway, who is pretty much burned severely on the head, and we don’t know what to do.”

The dispatcher assured the caller that help was on the way.

The crash claimed the lives of two 16-year-old girls from China, who were coming to the United States for a church camp.

Of the 307 passengers and crew aboard the Seoul-to-San Francisco flight, 305 survived. Out of those, 123 were uninjured, but the rest went to Bay Area hospitals. Some of them were still there, including a handful in critical condition.

The sheer number of injured overwhelmed emergency crews for a time, frustrating those who survived but saw their fellow passengers suffering.

“There are no ambulances out here,” a caller said. “We have been on the ground for 20 minutes. Critical injuries.”

“Were you on the plane, ma’am?” the dispatcher asked.

“Yes, I was on the plane! We have been on the ground for, I don’t know, 20 minutes to half an hour?” she said. “There are people laying on the tarmac with critical injuries, head injuries. We are almost losing a woman here. We’re trying to keep her alive.”

CNN’s Kyung Lah contributed to this report.

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