“I had no time to be scared,” she said.
Xu Da, a product manager at an Internet company in Hangzhou, China, said he was sitting with his wife and teenage son near the back of the plane. When he felt the plane hit the ground, he said, oxygen masks dropped down.
And when he stood up in a cabin, he could see the tail where the galley was torn away, leaving a gaping hole through which he could see the runway. After escaping, they watched the plane catch fire, and firefighters hose it down. They suffered some cuts and have neck and back pain.
“I just feel lucky,” he said. “We are so lucky we sit beside the tail and we can leave the plane in the first place.”
By the time the flames were out, much of the top of the fuselage had burned away. The tail section was gone, with pieces of it scattered across the beginning of the runway. One engine appeared to have broken away.
The flight originated in Shanghai, China, and stopped over in Seoul, South Korea, before making the nearly 11-hour trip to San Francisco, airport officials said. The airline said there were 16 crew members aboard and 291 passengers. Thirty of the passengers were children.
San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White said 19 people remain hospitalized, six of them in critical condition.
She said at a news conference outside San Francisco General Hospital the two 16-year-old girls who died were found on either side of the plane near the “front middle.” Investigators are determining whether they were alive or dead when rescuers reached the scene.
Hayes-White said first responders told her they saw people at the edge of the bay dousing themselves with water, possibly to cool burn injuries.
San Francisco General Hospital Chief of Surgery Margaret Knudson said at least two people injured that were treated there are paralyzed and two others suffered road rash-type injuries suggesting they were dragged.