SAN FRANCISCO — Stunned and bleeding after a Boeing 777 crash-landed at the San Francisco airport, hundreds of passengers staggered across the debris-strewn tarmac, some trying to help the critically injured, others desperately calling 911 and begging for more ambulances as dire minutes ticked away.
“There’s not enough medics out here,” a caller told a dispatcher in a 911 call released by the California Highway Patrol. “There is a woman out here on the street, on the runway, who is pretty much burned very severely on the head, and we don’t know what to do.”
Two people died, and 180 of the 307 passengers were hurt Saturday when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 slammed tail-first into a seawall at the end of the runway. The impact ripped off the back of the plane and tossed three flight attendants and their seats onto the runway.
The airliner, which came in too low and too slow, spun and skidded 100 feet before stopping. The battered passengers, some with broken bones, were told over the jet’s public-address system to stay in their seats for another 90 seconds while the cockpit consulted with the control tower, a safety procedure to prevent people from evacuating into life-threatening fires or machinery.
“We don’t know what the pilots were thinking, but I can tell you that in previous accidents, there have been crews that don’t evacuate. They wait for other vehicles to come, to be able to get passengers out safely,” said National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman.
And in this accident, it appears one of the two Chinese teens who died may have been run over by a fire truck rushing to the burning jet.
Many passengers jumped out the back of the plane or slid down inflated slides through emergency exits. Then, say some, an unnerving wait began.