141 Chinese in San Francisco air crash

Updated: 2013-07-07 05:25

By ZHANG QIDONG and CHANG JUN in San Francisco, and ZHANG YUWEI in NEW YORK (chinadaily.com.cn)

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One hundred and forty one Chinese passengers were on board when the Asiana Airline Flight 214 from Seoul, the Republic of Korea (ROK), crashed when landing in the San Francisco International Airport on Saturday morning, said officials with the Chinese Consulate General.

At least 34 Chinese high school students and one teacher were on the flight, said Kevin Chung, a driver from Marisan Travel, who was supposed to pick up the group from Zhejiang at the airport and send them to the Marriott hotel in San Jose.

Officials at the Chinese Consulate will visit injured Chinese passengers - including two high school students, one from Shanghai and one from Jiangsu, with minor injuries - at the San Fransico General Hospital, according to Wang Chuan, a press officer with the consulate.

Xu Da, a director with the Taobao.com, China's Internet-based E-commerce company, was on Flight 214 to San Francisco for a business trip. "I was very scared when I felt the bumps and sound of the crash," Xu told China Daily as he was picked up by a friend after six hours of waiting in the airport since the crash.

Xu said the passengers calmed down quickly and most Chinese passengers followed instructions of the crew members as they were evacuated from the plane.

"It took about half an hour from landing to evacuation," Xu wrote on his social media site Sina Weibo. "The passengers were calm in the rescue process, no shouting, and everything was in order," he added. "We felt we have already been evacuated for a while when the fire turned big...I feel I am very lucky at the moment," wrote Xu, adding teachers said the Chinese students on board are "OK and should be alright".

Elliott Stone, another passenger on Flight 214 who went Seoul for martial arts training, however, told CNN that he was "not too impressed with the first responders", adding that he saw some people badly injured.

Local Chinese community watched the news closely as new details unfolded.

Gong Yi, a local Chinese resident in San Francisco whose daughter fly to the US as a boarding school student on Wednesday, said this news saddened her.

"They (the wounded students) are still children; I can't imagine how their parents and relatives will take this news," said Gong.

Wen Huiheng, a manager of Global Link, said her delegation of 39 business executives from China, who were scheduled to arrive in San Francisco Saturday afternoon from Los Angeles, had to cancel their flights due to safety concern.

Asiana Airlines confirmed in a statement that there were a total of 291 passengers (19 business class, 272 travel class) and 16 cabin crew aboard. The majority of the passengers were comprised of 141 Chinese citizens, 77 Korean citizens, 61 US citizens, and 1 Japanese citizen, among others.

Asiana said it is currently investigating the cause of the crash.

Chinese and Korean interpreters were dispatched to assist passengers in the airport, according to local authorities.

The flight originated from Shanghai and stopped in Seoul before heading to San Francisco. Released images show that the plane lost its tail with most of its roof charred. Reports say that it was the fifth accident of Asiana Airline, ROK's second-largest airline, which was founded in 1988. Authorities said Boeing will likely be part of the investigation.

Eye witnesses at the airport said that a "bouncing plane flying in, tail landing the ground first." Fire was seen on the plane prior to landing, according to the airport's tower control.

Joanne Hayes-White, chief of San Francisco Fire Department, confirmed at a press conference that two people were dead and more than 130 had been transported to local hospitals, including five in critical condition. She added that the numbers were "fluid" and the unaccounted passengers – about 60 -- are "work in progress".

David Johnson, a special agent with the FBI, said at the same news briefing that no indication of terrorism involved in the air crash.

Deborah Hersman, chairman of the Washington-based National Transportation Safety Board, an independent Federal agency charged by Congress, said a team will fly to San Francisco to help the investigation.

By Saturday evening, two runways were reopened while the airport gradually resumed operation. Meantime, two nearby airports in Oakland and San Jose are helping receive flights.

141 Chinese in San Francisco air crash

Passengers on Flight 214 are escorted from the Reflection Room to the Customs inspection at San Francisco International Airport. ZHANG QIDONG / China Daily