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

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little