An Asiana Airlines jet carrying more than 300 passengers and crew members crash-landed at the San Francisco airport Saturday, killing at least two people and injuring more than 180.
The flight originated in Shanghai, China, and stopped in the South Korean capital, Seoul, before heading to San Francisco in the western U.S. state of California.
Most of the people on board the Boeing 777 were Chinese, South Korean and U.S. nationals. The South Korean airline says the two people killed were Chinese passengers seated at the back of the plane. Both victims were reportedly teenage girls.
Witnesses say the plane’s tail appeared to hit the runway first as it came in for landing. The tail broke off and the aircraft caught fire and appeared to bounce violently before coming to rest on the tarmac. Images of the plane in the aftermath of the crash showed it on the ground with its tail missing, much of the cabin burned through and debris scattered along the runway.
Teams of investigators have been sent to San Francisco to investigate the cause of the accident, which occurred in good weather.
No distress signal from the cockpit was issued before the crash, but some survivors have said they thought the plane was coming in too low. They say it felt like the pilot tried to fly up again before the plane hit the runway.
The CEO of Asiana Airlines, Yoon Young-doo, told a news conference Sunday the airline currently believes there were no mechanical problems with the plane or its engines at the time of the crash. He would not comment directly on whether pilot error may have caused the accident but said those in the cockpit had thousands of hours of experience.
Asiana is South Korea’s second largest airline after national carrier Korean Air.
The investigation has been turned over to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has said there is no indication the accident was linked to terrorism. The FBI will work with the National Transportation Safety Board, Korean investigators and Boeing as the probe unfolds.
White House officials said President Barack Obama’s “thoughts and prayers go out to the families who lost a loved one and all those affected by the crash.”
In 2008, a British Airways Boeing 777 jet crash-landed short of the runway at London’s Heathrow Airport, but all on board survived. Investigators attributed the crash to fuel blockages caused by ice particles that had formed during the plane’s long flight from Beijing. The finding led to changes in the design of the Rolls-Royce engines used on some 777s.