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
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
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

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game