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Boeing 777 Crash in San Francisco; Interview with a Passenger; San Francisco Officials Hold Press Conference

Aired July 6, 2013 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Don, thanks very much. I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Washington. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN's special coverage. The breaking news tonight out of San Francisco. A Boeing 777 has crash landed at the San Francisco International Airport.

Witnesses say they saw the plane come in and it appeared to tip. They say the tail hit the ground and then ripped off. One witness says a giant fire ball simply developed from under the plane and the airliner flew into the grass as passengers evacuated and emergency crews rushed in.

Here's what we know right now and I must admit there is a lot we don't know. But here's what we know. There are at least 28 people in hospitals in the area. San Francisco General Hospital says they have ten critically injured and two children. They also are expecting 15 more patients.

We also know that there were 291 passengers on the plane and 16 crew members. Sixty-one of the passengers we are told are Americans. And the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board, is sending what they call a go team to San Francisco to begin this investigation.

People were -- who were on that plane already shared some pictures with us. This is what they saw. Smoke pouring out of the plane, flames in the windows. People jumping down the emergency slides and trying to rush away from that plane as quickly as possible.

We also have audio from the air traffic controllers just after that plane crashed landed in San Francisco. Listen very carefully. It's short but you can hear officials say, emergency vehicles are on the way. Listen to this.



TOWER: Asiana 214 heavy, emergency vehicles are responding.


TOWER: Emergency vehicles are responding.



BLITZER: Earlier this evening, we also heard directly from the NTSB, the group that will be leading this crash investigation here in the United States. Listen to what the chair of the NTSB, Deborah Hersman says out of Washington just a little while ago.


DEBBIE HERSMAN, NTSB CHAIRMAN: We had a Boeing 777, Asiana Flight 214, that was originating in Seoul, South Korea, destined for San Francisco. They were coming in on Runway 28 left at San Francisco International Airport, and they crashed on landing.

We have a number of investigators who are launching with us here from headquarters. They are being led by investigator in charge Bill English. We have a number of subject matter experts who are going to be leading specific teams. Those teams are going to be focused on operations, human performance, survival factors, the airport, airport operations. And they're going to be focusing on the aircraft, the systems, structures, and power plants.

We'll be supported by a number of team members here in Washington, D.C. They're in the process of collecting information on air traffic control operations, on weather, and on maintenance issues. They will be able to gather information while the rest of our team is en route to provide us with that information when we land so we can hit the ground running. We have three investigators who are based on the West Coast. They are deploying right now to the accident scene to stake it down in advance of our team's arrival from Washington.

Those three investigators are based in the L.A. area and they should arrive in San Francisco in the next couple hours.

I have spoken to the Administrator Huerta of the FAA. We are getting very good cooperation from the Federal Aviation Administration, from Boeing, and from other participants. We are working with our counterparts in Korea, the Korean Air and Accident Board, and we will invite them to serve as a participant in our investigation.

We're leaving now. We should arrive in San Francisco in just a few hours and then we will get to work when we arrive.


BLITZER: Deborah Hersman, the chair of the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board, briefing us a little while ago.

I'm joined now on the phone by a passenger who was on that flight. Elliot Stone is joining us.

Elliot, just walk us through what was going on. You're coming in for a landing after a long flight from Seoul, South Korea. What happened?

ELLIOTT STONE, PASSENGER ON FLIGHT 214 (via telephone): Yes, yes. Terrific the whole time. Ten seconds away from being home. And it seemed like we were a little bit high, like we could see the tarmac down below us. So, we were coming down kind of sharp.

And then right when it appeared to coast like for the landing, all of a sudden, the engine was off -- like you sped up, like the pilot knew he was short. And then the back end just hit and flies up in the air, and everybody's head goes up to the ceiling. And then it just kind of drifts for a little bit, for a good 300 yards and then tips over. Fire starts.

Everybody's, you know, pushing the doors out. And then once we were on the ground everybody was all huddled on one side. My family and I went to the other side. And like 20 minutes later this lady just appears from 500 yards away just like crippled just walking and we started running over and there was another five bodies like 500 yards away that nobody saw. And so we were running over there calling an ambulance and stuff.

The ambulances took like 20, 30 minutes to get there. It's pretty ridiculous. We were yelling at people, yelling at firefighters. Get over here. Get over here. And they were just lagging hard and (INAUDIBLE) for hours for nothing.

So, I don't know. We're not very impressed with the whole protocol and systems in place for this type of thing.

BLITZER: Elliot, where were you sitting on the plane?

STONE: We were really fortunate. We were central. My girlfriend, her sister, and two other of my martial art students, we were all pretty central to the back end that got knocked off right on that landing.

So the flight attendants out on the tarmac way in the back because they were sitting in the back end and got hammered because we landed short. And then they all fell out and it was just the most terrible thing I've seen. You know?

So we were just yelling for people and no one was coming. Bad.

BLITZER: So just to get it straight you were sitting in coach near the back of the plane?

STONE: We were sitting in the middle. Yes. No, we were super happy. We're all together in the middle. And once it all happened, we were holding on to each other and then the doors opened and it was just push and rush out.

So, the middle was pretty safe.

BLITZER: And so, what happened? All of a sudden the plane stops. Part of it -- part of it is no longer there I take it.

And what did they tell you to do, they say, just get out of your seat? You were fastened in your seat belt, get out of your seatbelt and try to get out, down the chutes? Is that what you tried to do?

STONE: That is what everyone was doing. The first announcement was stay calm. We're like what? And everyone was leaving. So buckle down and just rushed out the door.

There weren't any slides or anything. We don't have a slide. We just jumped off.

BLITZER: The slides weren't even -- you just jumped out of the emergency doors that opened up and you jumped out as quickly as you can.


BLITZER: Did you see a lot of people injured?

STONE: Yes, there are -- there are probably like 50 to 75 people that were kind of like on stretchers and have neck braces and stuff. There are five that were just terrible, like, you know, bad news.

Those were the flight attendants that got dropped out the back. The back got the worst of it. That opened up right where the flight attendants sit. And they got put out right on impact there.

We kind of fishtailed for another 300 yards to slide and then it finally rolled over. Fire started. There's nobody over there. No emergency, no nothing for the longest time.

BLITZER: Yes, it took a while I take it for the folks, emergency personnel to get to the plane. That's what I hear you saying.

But it looks -- I mean, the pictures are terrible of this plane. It looks awful and we're showing our viewers these pictures. But from what I hear you saying most of the people, at least your impression is most of the people did manage to escape?

STONE: Yes, yes. The plane looks really bad now because it was on fire for like an hour, you know? But everyone -- I'm not aware of anyone that was stuck.

Everybody, yes, a few hundred people that were out. Probably 150 totally OK, were totally OK, 75 or so that were minor injuries. The plane was just on fire so it wasn't instantaneous like that. No.

BLITZER: And, Elliot, I take it you were there in Seoul, South Korea, as part of a martial arts program. What were you doing there?

STONE: Yes, that's right. My master is from Korea. He's a black belt masters (INAUDIBLE). There's about 10 from us from San Jose, California (ph), that traveled there to do a tournament.


You know, just happy to be home and then landed and then boom.

BLITZER: Has anyone from the airline been in touch with all of you? What have they told you?

STONE: It's pretty bad in here. They don't tell us anything. My dad is talking to FBI right now because they keep saying, oh, the FBI is here. We can't leave. We can't leave.

FBI is here. Well, come talk to us. We want to go. You know?

So Asiana Airlines not saying anything. The police here aren't saying anything. Oh, be patient. Wait, wait, we've been here for four hours doing nothing.

BLITZER: Where are you guys -- where did they put all of the passengers who survived the crash? Where are you at the airport?

STONE: Half of us are in the customs center just camped out and the other half is right when you get off their airplane. We went off the elevator thing and just some room. I don't know.

BLITZER: Hold on a second, Elliot Stone, a passenger. They're having a news conference now at the San Francisco airport. We'll listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to turn it over to the mayor now to say a few words.


Good afternoon.

First, let me say that on behalf of the people of San Francisco, our thoughts and our prayers are with all of the passengers on the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 from South Korea. We're deeply saddened by this incident, and our hearts are with our friends and the families of those that are affected.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is still a fluid and active scene. Not everyone has yet to be accounted for. Our first responders responded immediately to this incident. And area hospitals, some nine of them, including San Francisco General, are treating those with injuries. And we will continue to monitor their conditions.

I have just spoken with Deborah Hersman, who is the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, and she will be flying out here and they will be investigating this incident.

We're also in touch with our FBI agents as well. I have spoken and he is here today, the consul general from Korea, and we have relayed our city's sympathy to the people of the Republic of Korea. Consul General Han is here.

The passengers and their families are our first priority, and we'll continue to provide them with the support that they need. But right now, I have with me fire chief, Joanne Hayes-White, police chief, Greg Suhr. You heard from director of the airport, John Martin, and special agent David Johnson from the FBI.

And let me now turn it over to Doug Yakel, who is the public information officer for our airport for more details.

DOUG YAKEL, SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Thank you. To confirm the flight information, again, at approximately 11:27 a.m., Asiana Airlines Flight 214 experienced an incident coming into San Francisco Airport. This aircraft is a Boeing 777 aircraft.

For a count of the passengers and the status of those passengers, I'm going to turn it over to San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White. Chief?


Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Joanne Hayes-White of San Francisco Fire Department.

I wanted to let you know and emphasize again what Mayor Lee stated, obviously, and John Martin as well, the tragedy at San Francisco International Airport. But I want to assure you that the scene is now secured. It required the cooperation of multiple agencies.

At approximately 11:34 a.m. this morning, San Francisco Fire Department, who operates the firefighting down here, we have three stations, we were called to the scene as well as units from San Francisco, for what we had been categorized as a hard landing. So, our crews responded post the landing. And our aircraft rescue and firefighting equipment went to work right away, applied foam and water to the fuselage.

When we have arrived on scene, the chutes had already been deployed, and we observed multiple numbers of people coming down the chutes and actually walking to safety, which was a good thing.

Still very active in terms of the coordinating all the numbers and so forth. I'm told that the information we received from Asiana Airlines, their manifesto included 291 passengers, with 16 additional crew, for a total of 307. We had 48 initial transports from the scene to area hospitals. And that was both at San Francisco County and San Mateo County. It was a pretty even split. I believe 26 to San Francisco, 22 to San Mateo Hospitals, for a total of 48.

We also accounted for 190 people that were transported here to a safety zone here at San Francisco International. And I'm told -- and again these numbers are fluid, out of those 190, there are approximately 82 at this time that have been transported or in the process of being transported.

We do have some numbers that are -- some passengers that are not accounted for, and that is a work in progress. Our crews worked collectively and collaboratively with not only SFPD and our brothers and sisters in the South Bay, made valiant efforts. They were actually on the plane doing some search and rescue attempts.

And at 2:45 p.m. this afternoon, we turned our investigation and our efforts over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who will be working and coordinating with the NTSB. My understanding is that the scene is secured with the assistance of the SFPD. And again, at this time, we are again working the numbers to determine exactly who's going where in transports. But there were a number, like I said190 of the passengers, pretty much self evacuated or with assistance from emergency responders over here to San Francisco. And they were categorized as green, which means minor injuries.

And I'm told that if 82 of the 190 were transported to the hospitals, the others, which the math is about 108, would be declared not necessary to go to the hospital.

That's all that we have at this time. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Command was transferred at approximately 0245 hours to FBI agent in charge, Dave Johnson.

Dave, did you wish to make any additional comments?


I'm FBI special agent in charge David Johnson. And on behalf of the FBI, I want to convey that our thoughts and prayers are with all the flight passengers, crew, and their families. At this point in time, there is no indication of terrorism involved. The FBI will be working closely with the NTSB on this investigation to determine the cause of the incident.

We currently have all of our resources available to assist in this investigation, and we will do all that we can to find out what occurred.

I also want to thank you, to all of the first responders, for their quick response, our local, state, and federal partners for the work that they've done so far.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to report as well that two of our far runways are back in operation, and we will hold another press update at approximately 5:30. And, again, most of all, our hearts go out to the passengers and family members. Thank you.


HAYES-WHITE: Yes, there are. And I failed to mention that.

At this time, there are two fatalities associated with this incident.

REPORTER: Chief, how many are unaccounted for?

HAYES-WHITE: We're still putting those numbers together at this time. So, upwards of -- approximately 60 people at this time.

REPORTER: Upwards of 60?

REPORTER: Unaccounted for?

HAYES-WHITE: At this time. REPORTER: Six-zero?


REPORTER: Is there a passenger list?


HAYES-WHITE: So the plane originated I'm told from Shanghai, China, with a stop in Seoul, Korea, and then the final destination was San Francisco International. Undetermined at this time.

REPORTER: Can you clarify --

BLITZER: All right. There is a news conference also happening at one of the hospitals in the San Francisco area. I want to listen to that. Let's listen in.

RACHEL KAGAN, SPOKESWOMAN, SAN FRANCISCO GENERAL HOSPITAL: There were eight adults and two children. They were in critical condition. And I do not have an update on their status as far as I know they are still critical. After that time there was a second --


KAGAN: Everyone good? OK. After the first wave of critically injured patients there was a second wave who came in from the scene. We received approximately 17 of those patients. I do not have a full breakdown. They are currently still being assessed and taken in.

I do know they range in condition from critical to good condition. Some have minor injuries. Others have more serious injuries and they are all being assessed now. The types of injuries would include fractures, abrasions, and possible internal injuries which are being evaluated. We're not certain of the full spectrum yet of care that these additional 17 will need. But the grand total that we are currently treating from this accident is 27.

We also have been informed there is a third wave of patients that are expected who will be the least injured and we expect that amount will also be the smallest amount. So, less than 10, less than 17, but a third group are expected.

The next update, I hope we will have the gender breakdown and ages and conditions of the second wave which I don't yet have at the next update. I also want to follow up on a couple questions from an hour ago. Did we call in extra staff? Yes. We called in additional staff from every discipline, meaning physicians, nurses, social workers, radiologist, lab people.

We also had a spontaneous outpouring of staff coming and showing up to get to work and that's not surprising here at San Francisco General. We are fully staffed and then some. As we need to be.

We also, I was asked a question about if we were transferring patients to other hospitals. We did have 11 patients that were already scheduled to go to Laguna Honda Hospital. That was their discharge plan.

Because of this event today --

BLITZER: We're getting an update from the hospitals but I want to go back to the other news conference at the airport because there are a lot of questions especially how many people are still unaccounted for, 307 people on that plane, 291 passengers, 16 crew members, 190 of them self-evacuated according to the fire chief. That leaves a lot of questions about all of the others. Two fatalities confirmed.

Well, what about the unaccounted for? We're not getting that answer right now. We see that news conference has ended. The next one scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Pacific Time, 8:30 p.m. here on the East Coast of the United States, lots of questions especially about the folks, the passengers, and crew members who are unaccounted for. We're trying to get some more information on that specific point.

But you heard the fire chief say there are lots of people unaccounted for. Richard Quest is joining us right now. I want to quickly get your take, Richard, on what we just heard from this news conference at the San Francisco airport.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: OK. I was doing the numbers. As the fire chief was saying, 48 transported to hospital, 190 people evacuated themselves and are still at the airport or will be taken to hospital. Now, I made that around 238 passengers either already being taken to hospital or at the airport.

BLITZER: Let me interrupt, Richard, because she was pretty specific. She said 190 people were what they call self-evacuated. Sort of green, she calls those green, minor injuries. But of those 190 she said 82 were taken to hospitals, 108 of those 190 were not necessary to go to hospitals.

QUEST: Correct.

BITZER: That brings up the 190.

QUEST: Correct.

BLITZER: We still have 307 people on that plane. We know what happened to 190 of them. If you add the two fatalities, that brings it up to 192.

But go ahead, and do the math from what you heard.

QUEST: The way I heard it taking the 48 that were originally transported, plus the 190 that you've been talking about, from the 307 and then right at the end, she said there were at least 60 unaccounted. So, I'm guessing that we're talking about since there were 307 people onboard we are talking in the 50, 60, 70 people who are still unaccounted for which -- you know, looking at the aircraft, looking at the damage to the aircraft would frankly not surprise me but actually the fact that so many people did get off, 190 people basically got off as walking wounded is really quite an achievement as Patrick Smith is saying earlier. This sort of incident is what is known in the industry as a survivable accident. You expect when the plane lands and there is an impact, you expect that there will be a large number of people that will walk away. And the aircraft is designed so you have to get everybody off in 90 seconds with half the emergency doors, or half the doors inoperable. That is what I think we're going to be seeing here today as they evacuate the aircraft.

The worst of the fire was in the middle section of the fuselage where you can see the total destruction of the roof. At the rear of the aircraft, there would have been a hefty impact effect, when the tail disengaged from the aircraft. But looking at the numbers, you know, we're talking I think about 60 odd people at the moment.

BLITZER: You did say, I just -- someone was talking to me when she said that but she did say about 60 people are unaccounted for.

QUEST: Correct.

BLITZER: Now the tail of that plane. What happened to the tail of that plane? The rear section? Because some of those unaccounted for might have been in that rear section, I assume.

QUEST: I am not going to speculate too much on that. If you look at the rear of the aircraft, the tail separated so there would be an extraordinary hefty impact. The people sitting at the back of the aircraft most certainly will have borne the brunt of that impact.

But the pressure dome is still there, the green pressure dome on the end of the aircraft. So, it doesn't look as if the actual passenger cabin was breached at the back of the aircraft when the tail basically fell off.

Now, I'm -- the area that is giving me the most concern as I look at the film is the middle of the fuselage to the front because the biggest killer besides impact is fire and smoke. And the people in that part of the aircraft will have suffered the worst of that.

Again, look at the plane. If you look at the top of the aircraft and we look down at the fuselage, you'll see that the back of the plane, it lost the empennage, it los the tail and the rudder and the horizontal stabilizer. But the fuselage integrity is pretty much there.

Further down the aircraft, you really do notice the effects of the fire and that traditionally when the plane crash lands to those who survive the impact, it is fire and smoke which is the biggest killer.

BLITZER: But you take a look at the tail over there. You see it's open. My fear, Richard, is that people were sucked out as that tail of the plane simply opened up.

We did speak with one of the passengers, Elliot Stone, just a few moments ago. I don't know if you were listening to that interview we did. He was sitting in the center. He was -- he said he was sitting in the middle with family members and friends coming back from Seoul, South Korea where he participated in a martial arts event in South Korea.

He says people in the middle basically got out but then the fire really developed after they managed to evacuate and jump out of those emergency doors. He said that the people in the back, especially the crew all the way in the back, he worried about them.

QUEST: Yes. And rightly so, because you look at the pressure door (ph), now on those closer shots, you cannot see, that has been breached. But the passengers would have been forward of that door. Anybody at the back, we're pausing in a difficult situation here because anybody in that aircraft, the rear of the aircraft would have felt such ferocious impact, bearing in mind this impact was harsh enough to lose the tail of the aircraft.

All right. It is a thin skilled, thin skin, so, you know, it would have been a very, very severe jolt to those at the rear of the aircraft. Those at the front would have been at far greater risk.

Don't forget one other point, Wolf. Those people at the rear of the aircraft, they may have suffered the effects of the smoke because they were trapped at the rear of the aircraft until they could get out through those emergency exits. What we've seen traditionally in accidents like this where planes have landed, there's been fire. It is the fire that really provides the biggest danger initially after they survive the impact because the toxic fumes can be so lethal.

BLITZER: Yes, you make fair, excellent points, Richard.

Don't go away. We'll continue our special coverage. We're watching this story from all over the world. We have reporters in San Francisco, here in Washington where the National Transportation Safety Board. Richard Quest, our aviation expert, is in London. We have others coming in. We also have reporters in Seoul, South Korea.

We'll take a quick break. Dan Simon is at the airport. We'll check in with him right after this.



MIKE MURPHY, WITNESS: Something happened before he did. I didn't see or hear it, but it caught the other fishermen's attention and they all looked down. But what I saw, it was coming in to land at the last minute. You could see the front end pop up and then slam down and then it went from there and it eventually became the big explosion.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our breaking news coverage of the Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco. For those of you who are just joining us, take a look at this. Here is what we know. What we know happened as of now. We just learned that two people are confirmed dead and many people are confirmed injured and we also know according to the fire chief in San Francisco, about 60 people right now on that plane. 60 people are unaccounted for. Those are words that she used about 60 people, unaccounted for. 307 people total were on that flight. 190 managed to self-evacuate. She confirmed two fatalities so far. 48 others taken to hospitals. But about 60, she says, remain unaccounted for and that is very, very disturbing at this point. They don't know where about 60 people who were aboard this flight, Asiana flight 214 from Seoul, South Korea to San Francisco where they are right now. Presumably they're searching.

Flight 214 left Seoul's International Airport earlier today and as I said they were carrying 307 people. Flew ten hours and 23 minutes to San Francisco, California. A witness says he saw the plane touch the ground and then saw flames and gray smoke. Another witness says, she saw parts of the plane break off and then the aircraft simply rocked and spun around. Evacuation slides were seen extending from one side of the aircraft. San Francisco airport officials have tweeted in the last hour that the airport has reopened two of its four runways. It had stopped all flights in and out immediately after the crash. CNN's Dan Simon is joining us now. He is at the airport with the very latest.

You're inside. We spoke with one passenger who is being holed up - all of those who got out, they're being holed up for the time being inside that airport. Is that what you're hearing as well, Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is what we're hearing. You know, of course, authorities will want to interview all the passengers here, all those statements. But I have to tell you, Wolf, that in the early minutes after this crash there was a real hope and even a real sense, if you looked at some of the statements from passengers if you looked at some of the tweets that they were sending out, there was a sense that perhaps that the injuries and the amount of people who died that the numbers might in fact be small.

But now we are hearing a much different story as you just reported. 60 people unaccounted for, also hearing that about 130 passengers are now at area hospitals and we have two confirmed dead. Now, in terms of where we go from here, we know, there will be another news conference in about an hour from now. And hopefully, we'll get some more information about those 60 people who are unaccounted for. We should point out that when this crash occurred, nearly 200 passengers were able to get to the terminal. In other words, they were well enough to actually get on a bus and somehow get to the terminal, which would suggest that their injuries would have been minor if in fact, they were injured at all. And of those 191 who made it to the terminal, about half of them ended up going to the hospitals with some kind of minor injury, but the big headline, of course, is you have 60 people who are unaccounted for. I asked the Fire Chief Joanne Hayesworth (sic), Joanne Hayes-White if those people were, in fact, suspected to be dead and she categorically said no. Of course, though, you've got to fear the worst, Wolf, when you hear that information and, of course, we'll stay on top of all the developments here out of at the international terminal. We'll send it back to you.

BLITZER: Because it's been a few hours now, Dan, as you know, since that plane crash landed at San Francisco. And I am very worried about those approximately 60, my math says it may even be a few more than 60 who are still unaccounted for. She specifically said, the fire chief Joanne Hayes-White, she said 190 self-evacuated and that is great news. They managed to jump off the emergency doors, slide down the chutes or whatever. Of those 190, she said 82 were taken to hospital. 108 did not necessarily have to go to the hospital. I assume, those 108 are in the airport right now being questioned by authorities, just being holed up, we spoke to one of them, Elliot Stone, he was getting frustrated because they are not letting them leave and 48 others were taken to the hospitals as well.

So if you do the math you come up with about 238 plus two confirmed fatalities. So if there are 307 people I have 67 who are still unaccounted for. She said about 60 unaccounted for. But what does that mean? Did you get a chance to speak with anyone over there, Dan? Are these unaccounted for -- where could they possibly be if -- are they still potentially on the plane? Were they sucked out of the rear? Because we saw the tail split open. What are they suggesting?

SIMON: I don't know. And we just want to be very transparent that it is a fluid situation. So we don't know. Did in fact the airline make some sort of a counting error when everybody sort of came back to the terminal? Obviously, it would have been a very chaotic situation. Did those people somehow escape the airline's accounting? That we don't know. But one would think that they have that scene very secure at this point and that they have, you know, gone over it very thoroughly and if there are any survivors, that those people would have in fact be found. But Wolf, let me just reiterate what the fire chief said. When she said that 190 people came back to the terminal, 82 of those actually wound up going to the hospital, so that adds to the count of the 48 people we already knew who went to the hospital. So, that would make about 130 now at area hospitals. This is obviously a very, very tragic situation and it is far worse than we were led to believe at first. We send it back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Dan, I'll let you to stand by. I know you're working authorities. Anyone from Asiana Airlines, are they saying anything about what happened? Are you getting any comment from them?

SIMON: We are not hearing anything from airline officials at this point. Obviously we would love to hear from them to get a sense in terms of how they think this may have happened, to go over all of the numbers that you and I have been talking about. At this point, that airline has not made anyone available. Of course, we'll continue to ask to talk to somebody from that airline, and hopefully, we'll make an appearance, at least somebody will make an appearance at the next press briefing.

BLITZER: You know, we're going to go to Seoul, South Korea and speak to our reporter there momentarily as well. Dan, thanks very much. Stand by. We're continuing the breaking news coverage out of San Francisco. An airliner, Boeing 777, an excellent plane, crash lands on the runway at San Francisco International Airport. 307 people onboard. 291 passengers. 16 crew members. And at least 60 people. According to the Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, 60 people unaccounted for, two confirmed dead. Stand by, our continuing coverage will resume in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. Once again we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN's special coverage. The breaking news out of San Francisco. A Boeing 777 crash landed at the San Francisco International Airport. We just learned from authorities in San Francisco two people are confirmed dead. More than 80 hurt. And she also said the fire chief in San Francisco, Joanne Hayes-White, she also said this. Listen.


CHIEF JOANNE HAYES-WHITE, SAN FRANCISCO FIRE DEPARTMENT: We accounted for 190 people that were transported here to a safety zone here at San Francisco International and I'm told and again these numbers are fluid, out of those 190, there are approximately 82 at this time that are, have been transported or are in the process of being transported. We do have some numbers that are - some passengers that are unaccounted for and that is something that is a work in progress. We're still putting those numbers together at this time. So upwards of approximately 60 people at this time.


BLITZER: Wow. That is very, very disturbing. Upwards of 60 people unaccounted for in this crash landing in San Francisco. You see up there on the screen two people confirmed dead. Dozens of people hurt. Rushed to hospitals. 60 people still unaccounted for. Upwards, she said, upwards of 60 people still unaccounted for. Onboard 291 passengers. 16 crew members. 61 of those passengers onboard, by the way, Americans. Earlier I spoke with a man who was on the flight, 25- year-old Elliot Stone. He told me there was chaos, totally understandable. Once that plane crash landed he said he saw several people who appeared to be badly hurt. Listen to him describe the moment that 777 landed.


ELLIOTT STONE, PASSENGER OF FLIGHT 214: It seemed like we were a little bit high and like we could see the tarmac down below us and so we were coming down kind of sharp, and then right when it's good to coast like for the landing, all of a sudden the engine was off - like he sped up all kind, like the pilot knew he was short and then - it is boom - the back end just hit and flies up in the air and everybody's head goes up to the ceiling and then it just kind of drifts for a little bit, a good 300 yards. Then it tips over. Fire starts. Everybody is, you know, pushing the doors out.


BLITZER: We just received the statement from the White House the president of the United States even though he is at Camp David with his family, obviously deeply concerned about what's going on. The White House issuing this statement. I'll read it to you. "Soon after the plane crash in San Francisco, California the president was made aware of the incident by Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. The president will continue to be updated as new information becomes available. The president expressed his gratitude for the first responders and directed his team to stay in constant contact with the federal, state, and local partners as they investigate and respond to this event. Their thoughts and prayers go out to the families who lost a loved one and all those affected by the crash. That statement from the White House released moments ago.

By the way, the FBI agent in charge of this investigation at the San Francisco International Airport, David Johnson, said that as of the information they have right now, he said, there is no indication of terrorism, no indication terrorism could have played a role, that's what he said only a few moments ago. Joining us now on the phone from the San Francisco airport is Ben Tinker. He is one of our CNN producers - one of our senior medical producers. I understand, Ben, you've seen some of the injured. You provided us with some photos. Describe to our viewers what you saw.

BEN TINKER, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL PRODUCER Wolf, that's right. And I think you are looking at some of those pictures right now. I'm sitting inside the international terminal right outside what is called the reflection room, which is sort of like a chapel at the end of the international terminal here at San Francisco Airport. The amount of activity has quieted down in the last hour or so. When I got over here, however, a few hours ago, it's very, very busy. Half a dozen San Francisco police department officers, about a dozen TSA agents around a side window. I was able to see a man in a white coat, later we found out that was, indeed, a doctor, a nurse, in the red jacket as well. You could (inaudible) a few of the passengers inside that room, we're not exactly sure how many of them are being held in there.

At this point, we're not sure how many are left inside that reflection room at this time. Every so often we'll see they would escort a few of the passengers out to the bathroom, one by one or in small groups. They were accompanied by a San Francisco police department officer. None of the reporters here, none of us were able to ask them any questions, not get any answers. Later on, if you're still looking at the pictures, you saw some of those people being brought out to another area here in the international terminal, we're told. We are not sure exactly where that is. We saw one middle aged woman come out in a wheelchair. She was wrapped in a Mylar blanket. I had seen (inaudible) used at the marathons, the draft one. She - I had seen walking around a little bit earlier. So, we know she was more likely than not getting the wheelchair out of precaution. We also saw a younger, teenage boy come out accompanied by a few other people as well and just, Wolf, in the past few minutes we've seen some family members, some friends waiting to go into that room. Again, we are not sure how many passengers if any are left in there at this time. But we know that there are at least -- waiting for answers.

BLITZER: Yeah, by my account they said 190 people. This is the fire chief in San Francisco were self-evacuated from the plane and they were brought into the terminal. Of those 190, 82 were sent to hospitals. So that leaves about 108 people who are with you still holed up in the airport, I assume, Ben. They don't - they apparently don't have major injuries. So they're still there. But according to Elliot Stone, one of those 108 who are still at the airport, they're not letting these folks go. And I think it's because authorities want to interview them. Is that right?

TINKER: It seems like that's (inaudible)-- and everyone who's gone anywhere who it appears has been on the plane, has been accompanied like I said by a police officer here in San Francisco airport. So, no one has really been able to talk to them. We also know that it seems as though they've been setting up to keep people here for a while. So like that passenger said, it doesn't seem like anyone's going anywhere any time soon. We can only guess that the people, the passengers who are left here at the airport are the ones with no or minor injuries. We saw the Salvation Army come in, Wolf, a little while ago and some supplies and fleece blankets and food. He said they've been brought in to make sure that everyone stays comfortable and provide translation services as well for some people who are getting off this flight, provide them the comfort and support they need as they try to get in touch, rather, with their loved ones here on the ground.

BLITZER: Just to review the math that I have, Ben, and then I'll let you go back to work over there. About 130 people were taken to hospitals. 108 are still where you are apparently. They're in fairly good shape. They don't need to go to hospitals. Two confirmed fatalities. And upwards, according to the fire chief, 60 people still missing. Do we have any information at all about what that means? That these are unaccounted for people. Upwards of 60 people in her words unaccounted for?

TINKER: You know, Wolf, to be honest, where I am at the reflection room, we haven't heard anything about that, but while you were asking me that question, another one of our CNN producers came over. She has, in fact, heard that some of the passengers are being held in this building where we are, the international terminal here. So, we are, of course, going to try and get in touch with anyone we can, those passengers who are here in the building. Because like you said, those - it doesn't seem like they're going anywhere any time soon. We're going to head over and see if we can find out anything more at this time, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Ben, we'll get back to you. And if any of those passengers want to talk to us on your cell phone over there, we'd be anxious to hear their eyewitness accounts as well. Stand by. Ben Tinker, senior medical producer is at the airport. He's on the scene for us as is Dan Simon. We'll take another quick break. Much more of our special coverage right after this.


BLITZER: Very disturbing information coming out of San Francisco. 300 -- and 307 people were on that plane, the San Francisco plane, the Asiana Airlines Flight 214. 291 crew - passengers. 16 crew members. We now know that about 240 of them have been accounted for. Two confirmed fatalities. About 130 people taken to hospitals. 108 are still in the San Francisco airport. Apparently in the international terminal. They don't need major medical attention at hospitals. But according to the San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, upwards of 60 people remain unaccounted for. What does that mean? 60 people are unaccounted for. Our special coverage continues in a minute.