Pilots of Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 from Seoul that crashed at San Francisco airport tried to abort just before landing plane

Official says the plane was travelling “significantly below” its target landing speed when it crashed, killing two Chinese teenagers

Los Angeles

The pilots of the Boeing 777 jet that crashed as it was coming in to land at San Francisco’s airport on Saturday, killing two teenagers, tried to abort the landing moments before the plane clipped a sea wall in front of the runway.

Drawing on data from the aircraft’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders, the head of the US National Transportation Board Deborah Hersman said on Sunday night that the pilots of Asiana Airlines flight 214 “called to initiate a go-around,” where a plane aborts a landing attempt during its final approach to the runway, just 1.5 seconds before the crash. That was after a stall warning sounded four seconds before impact.

Ms Hersman said the plane was travelling “significantly below” its target landing speed of 137 knots, or 157 miles, per hour. “We’re not talking about a few knots,” she said.

However, officials warned against drawing any firm conclusions from the preliminary findings. Earlier, Asiana Airlines appeared to rule out any mechanical failures, saying there were no problems with the Boeing 777 or its engines.

Speaking in San Francisco on Sunday, Ms Hersman said it was too early to pinpoint the cause of the crash. “What I will tell you is that the NTSB conducts very thorough investigations. We will not reach a determination of probable cause in the first few days that we’re on an accident scene,” she told reporters.

A total of 182 people were injured when the flight carrying more than 300 people crashed and burst into flames while coming into land at about 11.30am local time on Saturday, following a journey from Seoul in South Korea. At least six people remained in critical condition on Sunday.

The plane came down short of the runway, striking a sea wall as it attempted to land. The impact tore off the aircraft’s tail section and sent the fuselage spinning across the tarmac. Passengers and crew escaped down emergency slides as it burst into flames.

The two passengers who died in the crash have been identified as Chinese students Ye Meng Yuan and Wang Lin Jia, both 16. Chinese state media identified the girls as middle school students from the country’s eastern Zhejiang province. 

Asiana also confirmed that, of the injured, 49 were in serious condition. Margaret Knudson, the chief of surgery at San Francisco General Hospital, where many of the injured were transported following the crash, told reporters on Sunday that at least two patients were suffering from paralysis. 19 patients were still at the hospital on Sunday.

On Saturday, pictures taken shortly after the crash showed people sliding down the aircraft’s inflatable emergency slides to safety.

Speaking to NBC, passenger Benjamin Levy said he was feeling “extremely lucky”.

Describing what happened, he said: “We were approaching perfectly well, but we were too low. When the pilot realised it, he put some more gas to correct it, but it was too late. We hit the runway pretty bad, and we started going up in the air again, and we landed pretty hard.”

Asiana is South Korea’s second-largest airline, and one of dozens of major firms with Boeing 777s in their fleets. The twin-engine aircraft has had an impeccable safety record in its 18-year history, though in 2008 a Boeing 777 landed short of the runway at London’s Heathrow. It had lost power due to icing in the fuel system – a flaw since resolved by the manufacturer. Nobody was injured.

The last major fatal crash in the US was in 2001, when American Airlines Flight 587 – an Airbus A300 – came down in Queens, New York, shortly after take-off from JFK airport, killing all 260 people on board and five people on the ground.

Crash stories

“I just crash landed at SFO. Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I’m ok. Surreal.”“Fire and rescue people all over the place. They’re evacuating the injured. Haven’t felt this way since 9/11…” - David Eun @Eunner Samsung executive, survivor

“I know the airport pretty well, so I realised the guy was a bit too low, too fast, and somehow he was not going to hit the runway on time, so he was too low… He put some gas and tried to go up again … but it was too late so we hit the runway pretty bad…”  - Benjamin Levy, survivor

“The plane came in at a bad angle, the tail clipped the runway… It went through quite a few acrobatics on the runway… The tail was too low. Instead of coming in flat, it was coming in at I’d say a 45 degree angle.” - Stephanie Turner, witness

“It got unsteady and one wing caught on the runway and just crashed.” - Danielle Wells @DanielleLWells, witness

“There was a fireball that came out from underneath the plane. Then the plane started to lift and cartwheel.” - Anthony Castorani, witness

“Our flight was scheduled to come in at the same time, but we were early and landed about 20 minutes before the crash.” - Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary teaching roles in Ipswich

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education re...

Science teachers needed in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teachers requ...

Semi Senior Accountant - Music

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

English teachers required in Lowestoft

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified English tea...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits