SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 that crashed at San Francisco’s airport on Saturday was flying “significantly below” its intended speed and its crew tried to abort the landing less than two seconds before it hit a seawall in front of the runway, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said on Sunday.
Asiana Airlines said the pilot in charge of landing the Boeing 777 on Saturday, Lee Kang-kook, was training for the long-range plane and it was his first flight to that airport with the jet. Asiana Airlines said he had previously flown to San Francisco on different planes and was being assisted by another pilot more experienced with the Boeing 777.
Information collected from the plane’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder indicated that there were no signs of trouble until seven seconds before impact, when the crew tried to accelerate, NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said at a news conference at the airport.
A stall warning in which the cockpit controls begin to shake activated four seconds before impact, and the crew tried to abort the landing and initiate what is known as a “go around” maneuver 1.5 seconds before crashing, Hersman said.
“Air speed was significantly below the target air speed” of 137 knots, she said. The throttle was set at idle as the plane approached the airport and the “engines appear to respond normally” when the crew tried to gain speed in the seconds before the crash, Hersman said.
Two Chinese teenagers died in the incident and more than 180 people were injured, local officials said. In a tragic new twist, the San Francisco Fire Department said that one of the teenagers may have been run over by an emergency vehicle as first responders scrambled to the scene.
“One of the deceased did have injuries consistent with those of having been run over by a vehicle,” fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said. “Many agencies were on the field yesterday.” Autopsies to determine the cause of death will be conducted by the San Mateo County coroner’s office, officials said.
More than 30 people remained hospitalized late yesterday. Eight were listed in critical condition, including two with paralysis from spinal injuries, according to hospital officials.
The charred hulk of the aircraft remained on the airport tarmac as flight operations gradually returned to normal. Three of the four runways were operating by yesterday afternoon.
Hersman said it was too early to speculate on the cause of the crash. The data recorders corroborated witness accounts and an amateur video, shown by CNN, that indicated the plane came in too low, lifted its nose in an attempt to gain altitude, and then bounced violently along the tarmac after the rear of the aircraft clipped a seawall at the approach to the runway.