* No signs of trouble until 7 seconds before crash
* Flight recorders show plane was flying too slowly
* Data indicates that last-moment maneuvers failed
* Two Chinese teenagers killed, one may have been run over
By Sarah McBride and Gerry Shih
SAN FRANCISCO, July 7 The Asiana Airlines Boeing
777 that crashed at San Francisco's airport on Saturday was
flying "significantly below" its intended speed and its crew
tried to abort the landing less than two seconds before it hit a
seawall in front of the runway, the U.S. National Transportation
Safety Board said on Sunday.
Asiana Airlines said the pilot in charge of
landing the Boeing 777 on Saturday, Lee Kang-kook, was training
for the long-range plane and it was his first flight to that
airport with the jet. Asiana Airlines said he had previously
flown to San Francisco on different planes and was being
assisted by another pilot more experienced with the Boeing 777.
Information collected from the plane's cockpit voice
recorder and flight data recorder indicated that there were no
signs of trouble until seven seconds before impact, when the
crew tried to accelerate, NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said
at a news conference at the airport.
A stall warning in which the cockpit controls begin to shake
activated four seconds before impact, and the crew tried to
abort the landing and initiate what is known as a "go around"
maneuver 1.5 seconds before crashing, Hersman said.
"Air speed was significantly below the target air speed" of
137 knots, she said. The throttle was set at idle as the plane
approached the airport and the "engines appear to respond
normally" when the crew tried to gain speed in the seconds
before the crash, Hersman said.
Two Chinese teenagers died in the incident and more than 180
people were injured, local officials said. In a tragic new
twist, the San Francisco Fire Department said that one of the
teenagers may have been run over by an emergency vehicle as
first responders scrambled to the scene.
"One of the deceased did have injuries consistent with those
of having been run over by a vehicle," fire department
spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said. "Many agencies were on the
Autopsies to determine the cause of death will be conducted
by the San Mateo County coroner's office, officials said.
More than 30 people remained hospitalized late on Sunday.
Eight were listed in critical condition, including two with
paralysis from spinal injuries, according to hospital officials.
The charred hulk of the aircraft remained on the airport
tarmac as flight operations gradually returned to normal. Three
of the four runways were operating by Sunday afternoon.
Hersman said it was too early to speculate on the cause of
the crash. The data recorders corroborated witness accounts and
an amateur video, shown by CNN, that indicated the plane came in
too low, lifted its nose in an attempt to gain altitude, and
then bounced violently along the tarmac after the rear of the
aircraft clipped a seawall at the approach to the runway.
Asked whether the information reviewed by the NTSB showed
pilot error in the crash, Hersman did not answer directly.
"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.
Asiana said mechanical failure did not appear to
be a factor in the crash. Hersman confirmed that a part of the
airport's instrument-landing system was offline on Saturday as
part of a scheduled runway construction project, but cautioned
against drawing conclusions from that.
"You do not need instruments to get into the airport," she
said, noting that the weather was good at the time of the crash
and that the plane had been cleared for a visual approach.
The Asiana flight originated in Shanghai and was flying to
San Francisco from Seoul with 291 passengers and 16 crew members
on board. Several large groups of Chinese students were among
SERIOUS INTERIOR DAMAGE
People on the flight said nothing seemed amiss until moments
before the plane hit the ground. Pictures taken by survivors
showed passengers hurrying out of the wrecked plane, some on
evacuation slides. Thick smoke billowed from the fuselage and TV
footage showed the aircraft gutted and blackened by fire. Much
of its roof was gone.
Interior damage to the plane also was extreme, Hersman said
on CNN earlier on Sunday.
"You can see the devastation from the outside of the
aircraft, the burn-through, the damage to the external
fuselage," she said. "But what you can't see is the damage
internally. That is really striking."
The NTSB released photos showing the wrecked interior cabin
oxygen masks dangling from the ceiling.
The dead were identified as Ye Meng Yuan and Wang Lin Jia,
both 16-year-old girls and described as Chinese nationals who
are students, Asiana Airlines said. They had been seated at the
rear of the aircraft, according to government officials in Seoul
and Asiana, and were found outside the airplane.
Hersman said the first crew of emergency workers to arrive
at the scene included 23 people in nine vehicles. San Francisco
Mayor Ed Lee said a total of 225 first responders were involved.
"As chaotic as the site was yesterday, I think a number of
miracles occurred to save many more lives," Lee said at the
airport news conference. Appearing later at San Francisco
General Hospital, he declined to address whether one of the
Chinese teenagers may have been run over.
The crash was the first fatal accident involving the Boeing
777, a popular long-range jet that has been in service since
1995. It was the first fatal commercial airline accident in the
United States since a regional plane operated by Colgan Air
crashed in New York in 2009.
"For now, we acknowledge that there were no problems caused
by the 777-200 plane or (its) engines," Yoon Young-doo, the
president and CEO of the airline, told reporters on Sunday at
the company headquarters on the outskirts of Seoul.
Asiana said passengers included 141 Chinese, 77 South
Koreans, 64 Americans, three Indians, three Canadians, one
French, one Vietnamese and one Japanese citizen.
Asiana, South Korea's junior carrier, has had two other
fatal crashes in its 25-year history.