Barr said he could think of no reason why a plane would come in to land that low.
“When you heard that explosion, that loud boom and you saw the black smoke ... you just thought, my God, everybody in there is gone,” said Ki Siadatan, who lives a few miles away from the airport and watched the plane’s “wobbly” and “a little bit out of control” approach from his balcony.
“My initial reaction was I don’t see how anyone could have made it,” he said.
Inside the plane, passenger Vedpal Singh, who had a fractured collarbone and whose arm was in a sling, was sitting in the middle of the aircraft with his family. He said there was no forewarning from the pilot or any crew members before the plane touched down hard and he heard a loud sound.
“We knew something was horrible wrong,” said a visibly shaken Singh. He said the plane went silent before people tried to get out anyway they could. His 15-year-old son said luggage tumbled from the overhead bins.
Passenger Benjamin Levy said it looked to him that the plane was flying too low and too close to the bay as it approached the runway. Levy, who was sitting in an emergency exit row, said he felt the pilot try to lift the jet up before it crashed.
He said he thought the maneuver might have saved some lives. “Everybody was screaming. I was trying to usher them out,” he recalled of the first seconds after the landing. “I said: ‘Stay calm, stop screaming, help each other out, don’t push.’”
Wen Zhang said she could feel the plane’s tail hit the ground. Baggage was falling around her, people were screaming and the aisle window broke.
Zhang picked up her 4-year-old son, who had hit the seat in front of him and broke his leg. Unhurt, she carried him through the hole where the bathroom was and went out onto the tarmac.