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Boeing 777 Crashes in San Francisco; At Least Two Dead in Crash Landing
Aired July 6, 2013 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Don, thank you so much. And I'm John King in Washington. It's top of the hour now. 8:00 p.m. out in San Francisco. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
Let's update you on our breaking news right now. As Don noted at least two people are confirmed dead after Asiana flight 214 Boeing 777 crash landed on the runway at San Francisco International Airport. You see the dramatic pictures there. That's what's left of this huge airplane. The tail of the aircraft completely ripped off. Witnesses say the plane was landing then the back of the plane hit the ground, at the very edge of the runway. Then the plane spun around. Throwing aircraft parts and debris across the tarmac.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It looked normal at first. It was taking the same angle that they always come in, like this and wheels were down. And then I knew something was wrong, about three or five seconds out I said -- I started calling to my fiancee, I said, this didn't look right, this doesn't look right. And the wheels, there were too low, too soon. So this is the runway. Came in like this. And I was watching the wheels and it just hit like that and the whole thing just collapsed immediately. It never really had a chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What followed that impact, a remarkable scene. Passengers able to escape the burning plane on those inflatable emergency slides. After the aircraft came to a stop just off the runway, we just heard from the San Francisco fire chief, here's the latest numbers. We now know 307 people were on board that flight. Of those, 182 taken to area hospitals. Forty nine of those were seriously injured. Some critically. And incredible 123 people were completely unscathed. And are still in the airport terminal.
As we mentioned, we also know two people now confirmed dead at this hour. The question still unanswered here, what happened in those final minutes, those final seconds that caused this plane to crash land after crossing the pacific from Seoul? Right now the crash scene is crawling with investigators. Their job, find out the cause of that crash and to try to sift through those clues to make sure it never happens again.
CNN Dan Simon is there live. Dan, what's the latest? DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We just got another briefing from the officials here at the airport. And just to reiterate what you said, just a minute ago, John, is that, you know, everybody has been accounted for at this point. And the headline is that 49 people are in serious condition at hospitals, two people confirmed dead. But the mayor of San Francisco Ed Lee, also wanted to underscore that this could have been a lot worse.
Of course, everybody has seen those incredible pictures. And you look at that video and you say to yourself, it's amazing that only two people died. And obviously, given the fact this plane traveled all the way from Seoul, South Korea, to San Francisco, would suggest that they were low on fuel, probably not a whole lot of fuel left in that plane. So perhaps that may have, you know, been a contributing factor in terms of why the fireball wasn't larger. But in any event why we're standing by here at the airport, we know that 123 passengers were able to get here to the terminal, talk to some of the folks from the airline, talk to some officials here at the terminal.
Apparently, they have now been allowed to leave. They can now go home or go to area hotels and figure out their travel plans presumably tomorrow. We know that the next press briefing will be tomorrow morning and also National Transportation Safety investigators from Washington, D.C., will arrive sometime tonight and then begin processing the scene again tomorrow morning -- John.
KING: And, Dan, at one point, just a short couple of hours ago, there was greater concern that the local authorities at one point thought there might still be 60 people unaccounted for. I heard the fire chief there, that was essentially just in the confusion, the fog of war, if you will after the crash, until people compared their notes?
SIMON: That's exactly right. It was a chaotic scene and they didn't have the accounting quite right. And obviously, that led to a range of emotions here at the airport. Obviously one point you thought that there might be as many as 60 feared dead if you will when they said you had that many people unaccounted for. But then in next hour they corrected themselves and said, no, we're just talking about one person and then we just found out now everybody accounted for at this point -- John.
KING: Dan Simon on the scene for us. When you look at these pictures, you have to pay tribute to the crew of that flight getting the passengers out of the plane. The first responders who responded so quickly as well. Dan Simon, you stay on top of the airport then, we'll check back with you in the hours ahead.
One of the passengers who was on that horrific flight that crashed into San Francisco, said the scene was chaos. He's OK. And so remarkably are his friends and family members. Listen as he describes the frightening moments as the plane came down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLIOTT STONE, PASSENGER ON FLIGHT 214: Like ten seconds away from being home and it seemed like we were a little bit high and like we could see the tarmac down below us. And so we're coming down kind of sharp. And then right when it started to coast like to the landing, all of a sudden the engine was off, like you sped up, all kind, like the pilot knew he was short, and just -- boom! The back end just hit and flies up in the air and everybody's head goes up to the ceiling and that it just kind of drifts for a little bit, a good 300 yards and then tips over.
Fire starts, everybody is, you know, pushing the doors out. I'd say probably like 50 to 75 people that were kind of like on stretchers and had a neck braces and stuff, there is five that we saw just terrible, like you know, bad, bad news. Those are the flight attendants that got dropped out the back, the back got the worst of it. That's what opened up I think like -- where the flight attendants sit. And then we kind of fish tailed for another 300 yards, finally rolled over, fire started and that's when all of the passengers jumped out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: If you look at those pictures of the 370 passengers and crew on board, more than half were taken to hospitals including 49 in serious condition. Some of the most serious cases including ten people who were in critical condition went to San Francisco General Hospital. That's one of the region's premier trauma centers. The hospital set up tens outside the Emergency Room to help deal with the sudden influx of patients. A hospital spokeswoman says, quote, "A spontaneous wave of off-duty staffers showed up to help, including doctors, nurses, social workers and language translators."
I want to bring in our Kyung Lah who's there right now at San Francisco General. Kyung, what's the latest?
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is that they have just received in the last hour or so, John, the last wave of patients. They don't believe that there are any more patients coming in here. And the good news is that this last wave of 18 patients is the healthiest batch that they've seen. They've seen a total of 52 people arrive here at this hospital. It was an enormous amount of people injuries being treated here in those early hours. They even set up tents outside right outside this ambulance area. And what they were trying to do, is try to separate these patients, try to figure out exactly what they're injuries were.
According to the hospital, head of the ER, he was saying that some of the worst injuries were some of the internal injuries as well as smoke inhalation and some of the spinal injuries consistent with a hard landing, like a head hitting the top of a ceiling. So, those are some of the big things that they were worried about. But if there is good news, again that last wave of patients certainly the healthiest bunch, we are seeing some patients actually leave here. And I saw two women who were just running past and they, John, still looked quite dazed. They looked stunned. And certainly you can understand when you look at exactly what they survived -- John.
KING: And Kyung, I was watching the hospital spokeswoman spoke earlier, even she seemed shock. Yes, they have some patients in critical condition, yes, they're still operating at a high pace at that trauma center, but given what happened on the ground, given when you look at images of that airplane, even she seemed shock that her day wasn't worse.
LAH: Yes, absolutely. Because if you look at the damage on that plane, granted, a lot of those passengers were able to leave before the worst of the fire, yes, they were expecting more patients here. They were prepared for Boston marathon-level types of injuries. That's what they were telling us, is that they were triaging and running to the drills in the same way that the hospitals in Boston were prepared for those types of injuries. So, that's what they were expecting when they heard a plane with some 300 people aboard had crashed at San Francisco airport. They were expecting it. They say, they are very, very grateful that there aren't any worse injuries.
KING: Kyung Lah, on the scene for us at San Francisco General. One of the premiere trauma centers in the area. We'll keep in touch throughout the hour. We should note though, 182 people all taken to hospitals. We'll continue to track their conditions in the hours ahead. Our coverage of the crash of Asiana fight 214 continues. Incredible pictures of the plane's tail sitting in pieces on the runway. We'll talk to an expert familiar with the Boeing 777 about just what happened, next.
KING: The eyewitness accounts really tell the story here, helping us understand what may have gone wrong in the moments just before this Asiana flight burst into flames. Mike Murphy describes what he saw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE MURPHY, WITNESS: Something happened before it hit. I didn't see or hear it but it caught the other fishermen's attention. And they all looked down. But what I saw was 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 eventually became the big explosion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Just to recap at this hour, following the latest developments in this deadly crash landing at the San Francisco International Airport. At least two people are confirmed dead, more than 100 others are hurt. Many of them critically. After something went horribly wrong as Asiana 214 touchdown. The plane smashed into the ground, and spun around, and burst into flames. Take a listen to how this passenger described this horrifying moments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VEDPAL SINGH, PASSENGER ON FLIGHT 214: The moment it touched the runway there was banging. We know something has gone wrong, something as terrible as ever. It's difficult. You know, your instincts take over you really don't know what's really going on.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Was it loud? Was it screaming?
SINGH: Yes, the moment it touched the runway it was pretty loud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's get some expertise here from Todd Curtis, he's a former Boeing aviation safety engineer. And he publishes AirSafe.com. Let's start with the plane, Todd, the Boeing 777, when you look at the pictures and you see where it hit, just at the edge of the runway, very close to the water, what is that tell you?
TODD CURTIS, FORMER BOEING AVIATION SAFETY ENGINEER: It tells me, if nothing else that the approach was more shallow than it should have been. They landed or the touchdown point was far short of where they intended. It should have never come even close to hitting the seawall at the edge of the runway like that.
KING: And at that point, number one, how fast is a plane typically traveling? And, number two, while we all get used to technology on the airplanes, is the computer flying the plane or was the pilot flying the plane?
CURTIS: Typically the pilot is going to be hand flying the plane right at the final approach there. This is a day where it was relatively a good weather day. They didn't have to have a full auto system in place. And even when you have a lot of automated systems, right at the point of touchdown or right before touchdown, you're going to have the pilots under positive control of the aircraft.
Now, as far as why it hit the way it did or rather how fast it was, it depends on the weight of the aircraft and other factors. And again, this is something that has to be discovered through the cockpit voice recorder and digital flight data recorder, how exactly, how fast this aircraft was going, both horizontally along the ground and its vertical speed, that may be the critical factor that made it land so short.
KING: And when you look at those pictures, you see it lost its tail. But the fuselage pretty much intact except for the damage caused by the fire. What does that tell you about impact and initial damage, anyway?
CURTIS: Well, the impact, the initial impact was strong enough to basically cause both horizontal stabilizers and the vertical fin to come off the aircraft. This was major, major structural damage which made it very difficult to control the aircraft. Also if you look closely toward the end of the fuselage you see what seems to be a tear in a bunch of metal. That seems to be the aft pressure bulkhead, so you probably had very serious structural damage within the rear part of the fuselage as well.
KING: And once the rear fin goes and the horizontal stabilizer goes, does the pilot have any control over that plane?
CURTIS: They certainly have some control of the plane. But again, the current, the dynamics of the aircraft in that situation far different from what you see during a normal landing. And again, I'd like to emphasize that one thing we're not quite sure of, because the investigators haven't really gotten there, is what was the vertical speed of this aircraft at touchdown. And as we saw, landing gear and engines were separated from the aircraft. It could have been that the vertical speed was so great that the energy when it hit the ground was so great that you had major portions of the aircraft, like the landing gear, coming off soon after touchdown.
KING: And if you were one of those investigators and you're making your list now of questions you want answered, what are the top two or three?
CURTIS: Well, top two or three will be, what is the statement or what are the statements from the two pilots flying the aircraft because of course we have all sorts of information from the black boxes. But the state of mind of the pilot, that is, why they made the decisions they did prior to landing is something that would be very important to know. Also, from outward appearances until the very end of the flight, it looked as though the flight were normal.
One question I would like to ask those pilots is, was there anything going on in the minutes or the hours leading up to landing where you were taking off your usual schedule? Were you doing things that were not on the check list? Were you not following procedures? Was there anything out of place or out of the ordinary prior to landing?
KING: Is there anything in the history of this aircraft that would be on the list? The questions you just asked all seem to involve human behavior. What was the crew and the pilots are doing? Is there anything in the history of this aircraft that you would be looking for?
CURTIS: Well, absolutely. Not only would I look at that particular aircraft, I'd like at all the other 777s in the fleet of that airline and even further beyond that. I would look to the record of the 777s as a whole, perhaps the Boeing engineering organization. Is there something in the history of the almost 20 year of this airplane being in service where there's something in the pattern of how this airplane lands that would give the investigators some sort of clue as what unique thing may have been happening prior to touchdown.
KING: Todd Curtis, I appreciate your insights tonight. We're obviously waiting the head of the National Transportation Safety Board on her way with its first crew of investigators, they're going to arrive in the hours ahead. Todd Curtis, I appreciate your expertise. We will keep in touch as we continue to follow. Our special coverage of the crash landing of Asiana flight 214 continues.
Pictures here show first responders, look at that, rushing out on the tarmac, the injured being carried away on stretchers. We'll talk to Dr. Gail Saltz about the trauma of surviving a plane crash, next.
KING: You're looking at new, live pictures now of the plane crash scene at San Francisco International Airport courtesy of our affiliate KRON. Let's update you now on our breaking news, as Asiana flight 214 came in for landing, right there San Francisco International, something terribly went wrong. When this is reported, the tail of that plane you're looking at clipped the edge of the runway, the plane then spun around, the belly sliding along the tarmac, before bursting into flames. There were a total of 307 people on board that plane you're looking at. Two of them this evening confirmed dead.
One hundred and twenty three people who are on board weren't injured at all. Another 132 had just minor or moderate injuries. But not all injuries are physical, some are emotional, can do harm after the accident and they can affect family and friends as well. Eunice Bird Rah told us earlier how she watched the scene unfold while she was waiting for her father who was on that plane.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EUNICE BIRD RAH, WITNESS TO BOEING 777 CRASH: It was horrifying. Every daughter's nightmare. You know, my father's been flying for 30 years. I've been flying, you know, every day of my life, since I was a little girl, you know, daddy, it's just never going to happen. And just being -- just seeing the wreckage from my balcony was very difficult. I could see medics and everything but I didn't know what was going on and I didn't know how to get there. So, watching it from my home was, you know, very sad and very scary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're happy to report this evening, Eunice has been reunited with her father. I want to bring in Dr. Gail Saltz now. She's an associate professor psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital, he joins me on the phone.
Doctor, let me just tell you this, I want to start with the people who just walked away, unscathed. Do they just go on with their lives or do they need to ask themselves questions about trauma they may have suffered that they're not aware of?
DR. GAIL SALTZ, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY, NY PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL: I think it will depend on the individual. Probably many of them will actually be quite OK. Initially they may have what's called acute stress reaction, which would be pretty typical for someone who's been through a harrowing experience to have feelings of nervousness, maybe some intrusive thoughts about the event for the next couple of weeks, and maybe even reticence or discomfort about the idea of flying. But most of those people will really recover and be quite fine.
But as you brought up, John, those that particularly may have had trauma in the past may be at greater risk for going on to develop what we all know to be Posttraumatic Stress disorder meaning down the road, they continue to have a lot of feelings of anxiety, avoidance of anything that reminds them of the event, intrusive thought or disruptive fleet, and you know, general feelings of being startled or jittery. And those obviously, we don't know which ones will go on to develop that but should your symptoms persist, I would recommend that those people do seek out professional guidance and you know get some treatment.
KING: And some symptoms, I assume, would be quite obvious. What are the not so obvious symptoms that maybe whether it was a passenger on this plane or family member who a few days or week or so from now, what should they be looking for that might not be obvious to them?
SALTZ: I think that if they find for instance having difficulty sleeping, if they're becoming socially withdrawn at all, if you know many of these people may need to fly again for business purposes, for family purposes, and if they just find that they keep coming up with reasons why, they shouldn't do that. Or they don't need to do that, if they're avoiding it. Any kind of symptom, quite honestly of anxiety or depression can be a sign that you're evolving into something. But as I said, most people will not. Now, there are a lot of people who do have a fear of flying. It's a very common phobia.
And anybody who is watching quite honestly may find that they have an increase in their fear just seeing something like this go on watching it on the news. And it's very hard for those people to keep in mind the fact that flying is actually probably the most safe form of travel, though in that sense it's an irrational fear because, frankly being in a car is you're much more likely to have an accident. So if you are really avoiding flying or you feel you have to drink a lot of alcohol to be on a flight, then you should know that there are great treatments available for flying phobias and you should really inquire about that.
KING: Dr. Gail Saltz, I appreciate your help and your insights on this traumatic evening. I appreciate it. Thank you.
SALTZ: Thank you for having me.
KING: Coming up here, you've seen the pieces of the plane out on the tarmac. Now, we want to show you this. We'll explain just what you're looking at in just a moment.
KING: I'm John King in Washington. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Those pictures tell you it has been a dramatic day. We want to update you now on the very latest. We're following the latest developments in this crash of Asiana Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport. At least two people are dead. More than 100 others are hurt. Some critically. After something went horribly wrong. As Asiana Flight 214 touched down.
Take a listen to this passenger describe the horror on board.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLIOTT STONE, PASSENGER ON FLIGHT 214: Seemed like we were a little bit high and like we could see the tarmac down below us and so we're coming down kind of sharp and then right when it started to coast, like for the landing, all of a sudden the engine was off -- like you sped up all time, like the pilot knew he was short, and then it's just 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 for a good 300 yards and then tips over, fire starts, everybody's, you know, pushing the doors out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's break down the latest numbers here. We know there were 307 people aboard this flight, of those 182 taken to hospitals, 49 of those seriously injured. Some critically.
An incredible 123 people were completely unscathed. As we mentioned we know tonight sadly two are confirmed dead.
Using a graphic animation, look here, CNN's Rene Marsh takes a closer look at what the trail of debris can tell us about this deadly crash.
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have partially re-created the crash scene based on what we have been able to see in the pictures and the video so far. So follow me from the left side of your screen to the right. On the far left you can see debris in the water and a debris trail where the land meets the water. And in that same vicinity the wheels of the plane and the tip of the tail.
Now shift your eyes to the right a little and that's where the vertical stabilizer fell and this is what is the vertical stabilizer, this part of the tail. To the right of that is the horizontal stabilizers, and that's this second of the tail here.
And then when you look to the right of all of that you can see the landing gear. And then shift your eyes to the far right and that is where the fuselage ended up. Now this is what the NTSB investigators are going to be looking at. They're going to look how close these parts are together in relation to each other, which part came off first, which part came off second, and really no detail will be too small in trying to piece this whole thing together.
Also really crucial is going to be that data recording box as well as the voice recording box. Those hold crucial information that will need to be analyzed.
Rene Marsh, CNN, Washington.
KING: On the scene for us, and shortly after this happened, has been Dan Simon now at San Francisco International Airport.
Dan, what are you hearing now?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you that the patients are being treated. They were scattered across nine different bay area hospitals, 49 of them are said to be in serious condition. I want to touch now, John, on who is on board that plane. The majority of the passengers were Chinese, followed by folks of Korean descent and there were also 61 U.S. citizens on board that plane. A host of different nationalities.
We know that the NTSB has a crew on its way to San Francisco. They're scheduled to arrive approximately at midnight. Then they're going to obviously come through the scene tomorrow.
At this point there are obviously a lot of different theories in terms why that plane went down but we certainly don't want to speculate. But when you hear some of the -- of the witnesses and when you talk to some of the experts, what they are saying is that the tail seemed to hit the ground first with the nose up.
We don't know what happened, if this was some pilot error or if there's some type of malfunction with the plane but that is a critical piece of information, that the tail seemed to hit the ground first.
In terms of why there weren't more fatalities perhaps it has something to do with the fact that plane came all the way from Seoul, South Korea. Obviously it would not have had a lot of fuel on board, perhaps that minimized the explosion once the plane started barreling down the runway, if you will.
But we're still here at the scene. John, we know that the people who came to the terminal apparently they're are now to go home or go to hotels and figure out their travel arrangements if in fact they're going to a different destination from San Francisco. So that's the latest we have here from the international terminal.
I'll send it back to you.
KING: And, Dan, as we obviously wait for the investigators to get on the scene, to piece together with their expertise exactly what happened from a technical standpoint, they'll talk to the pilot, they'll look at the safety records of that aircraft to try to piece the plane back together, from what you have been hearing from the first responders and the people who fled off that plane, especially those who walked away unscathed, what strikes you most about what was a chaotic scene but obviously a well-run scene on that tarmac?
SIMON: Well, I think we can say that the first responders did an incredible job. We're talking about 225 first responders who came to the scene. The fact that you only had two fatalities when you look at that wreckage is just amazing. So the first responders really did a terrific job in terms of getting folks safely away from that scene. Obviously you got a credit, the crew as well, 16 members of that crew.
I think, John, the thing that strikes me the most is just that, looking at that wreckage. You have to wonder how more people weren't either seriously hurt or killed when you look at that record. Certainly amazing.
KING: Even hours later, every time you see it, it makes us stop. Dan Simon, on the scene for us. It's been fascinating reporting. We'll keep in touch with Dan throughout the evening.
More than 50 of the injured crash victims were taken to San Francisco General Hospital. That's the city's number one trauma center, five of those patients remain in critical condition, and one survivor who received just minor injuries is describing the moment of the crash.
Our correspondent Kyung Lah is at the hospital and joins us live from San Francisco.
Kyung, the latest there?
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we're actually getting the latest, just right over my shoulder you'll see that the hospital PIO is briefing reporters. She actually gun up slightly in the number of patients that they've received here at this hospital. That number now being 53, split pretty much half and half between the numbers of children as well as the number so adult.
Seven patient, though, she said have now been released. And we actually got to speak with one of those patients who has just been released. He still had on the back of his shirt. You could see a cut on his early. And he was talking to reporters explaining what it felt like at the moment of impact. Here's what he told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN LEVY, CRASH SURVIVOR: It like six flags show, right? You're tied up to your chair and again we're skipping on the runway, and I thought we were going to back. Maybe we'd back go up for and start flying again, you know, provides another landing but we went back down again. So it was -- as I say, felt like slow motion. I was still tied to my chair, unbuckled. But our chair -- the whole row was completely crushed on the -- on the chairs behind me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: And what he added was that he felt that there could have been many more people injured except there was no immediate fire when they did hit the ground. He says he feels very incredibly lucky. And when asked whether or not he was afraid to fly anymore, he said he just can't go there. He's not going to be afraid to fly. He's going to try to, you know, move forward beyond this. But certainly he's in shock.
A lot of the patients, John, we've seen who's been leaving this hospital in a trickle, they certainly still looked very dazed and very shocked -- John.
KING: Kyung Lah on the scene for us at San Francisco General. She'll continue her reporting with the briefing there and we'll check in with the latest numbers.
Kyung, thank you very much.
Remarkable the gentleman is saying it felt like a six flag ride. Some of the most remarkable images in the aftermath of the crash are coming from social media. A photograph posted to Twitter by David Hume shows what appears to be the passengers walking off the plane, some of them toting bags, as smoke rises from the other side. He writes, "I just crash landed at SFO. Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I'm OK. Surreal."
Within moments of the crash, fire crews were on the scene dousing the fuselage with water and foam.
Anthony Castorani who witnessed the landing from a nearby hotel said he saw the plane touched the ground then noticed a larger plume of white smoke. He told CNN he saw a large brief fireball that came from underneath the aircraft.
CNN iReporter Timothy Clark also was in a nearby hotel when he heard a large crashing sound from outside. He told CNN, quote, "This is very unnerving. We have a long flight home on Monday."
If you have videos or pictures of the crash you too can become a CNN iReporter. Simply go to ireport.com to post and share.
Up next, she's led investigations into some of the most high-profile plane crashes. We'll find out what the former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation thinks about this one, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTINA STAPCHUCK, WITNESSED CRASH: So what happen was when it was about to land, I guess it looked like the tires twisted a little bit and then it rocked back, and the tail came off. And then when it rocked back a lot of the parts on the plane came off and they're all shattered everywhere on the runway. And then after it rocked back, it rocked to the front. And then if my eyes it just looked like the plane went on sudden break which made the plane spun around while the front of the plane just on the ground sliding all the way through the runway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The witness there describing the moment of impact. A plane with 307 people on board, 291 passengers, 16 crew members, crashing at San Francisco's international airport. Dozens are hospitalized tonight, at least two people confirmed dead.
Want to show you here an animation we put together showing you the crash landing. This is based on accounts from witnesses at the scene. You see the plane come in the nose up, the tail hits before the runway, the fuselage spins there. It is there shortly after that the fire began.
Passengers have said the fire did not begin immediately. That was the precious moments they had to escape and get off that flight through those emergency slides. You see the plane coming in there, boom, before hitting near the bay for the formal part of the runway there.
Now investigators, of course, combing that scene, looking at debris, interviewing passengers and crew, looking at the radar, trying to find out exactly what caused this crash. So what will those investigators be looking for?
Joining us now is the former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Mary Schiavo.
Mary, thank you for joining us tonight. When you see where the impact happened, at the very edge of the runway, just over the bay, on the rocks, what's your very first question about what happened to this airplane?
MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: Well, my first question actually is going to go back a few seconds before that because we have learned by looking at notice to airmen, no-tans, as you know, that the instrument landing system was not operable and the VASI, the Visual Approach Slope Indicator lights were out. So if they were coming in and expecting any guidance, and they were notified of this, it's public for everyone to see. If they were expecting guidance or autopilot guidance it wouldn't work that way and they would have to do a visual approach.
There are canned data on what your glide slope should be if you're coming in without this equipment but it might have been quite surprising. And then when you get down to that level and you see there's a seawall that is where they landing gear probably cut through the seawall. And at that point, it -- you know, the writing's on the wall, so to speak, they had to put the plane on the ground.
But where the wreckage is on the runway makes it look like they again tried to throttle forward to give more power and try to rotate and take off again and that's where you got a tail strike.
So I think the lack of instrumentation, even though it was notice to the pilots, is going to play here. And also that seawall is going to figure into the accident sequence.
KING: And we've heard from all accounts there -- sometimes at this airport there can be dramatic weather. Not on this day. So when you say the pilots coming in on manual, essentially, he's operating the aircraft, you see this -- some of this debris as we look at these pictures here now, some of the plane in the water. Obviously he came in too low, too soon but you don't -- you can't answer the key question as to why.
SCHIAVO: Well, other than -- like I said, the key question as to why might be lying in the fact that it was a beautiful day and he was cleared for a visual approach. On this runway with the instrument landing system out if you're used to flying -- and this has been a common criticism of many of the NTSB investigations recently -- is that pilots are too dependent on the autopilot and here you're coming into a runway, if you're used to doing instrument, fully instrument and fully autopilot land, and you're expecting the autopilot to adjust the altitude and throttle back, it was coming in fast. And you didn't have that and you had to do it completely manually, this has been a common criticism throughout NTSB investigations, even though you should be able to do a visual landing on a beautiful, clear day, it is actually difficult because you're not used to it.
KING: When you have an international carrier like this, Asiana, coming into this airport, what is your recollection of the protocols here in terms of what will the airline speak to its pilot and crew first? Will the NTSB get easy access to them or could that be an issue?
SCHIAVO: No, the NTSB will have easy access to them. And the NTSB is supposed to be the ones that speak to them first, according to the laws and regulations of the United States of America. In fact, the NTSB, even if they were injured, which apparently they are OK, but there's a protocol that they are not to speak to anyone until the NTSB comes to question them.
Now in this case, of course, they have spoken to their airline, most likely, but we have very strict protocols in the United States that the NTSB is the first person, the first entities to question the pilots on the plane.
KING: And help us with how the investigation will go forward. When you look at this plane, it is remarkable. It is remarkable. It is quite sad that two people confirmed dead. But I would say it's miraculous that we don't have more than that when you look at this plane. But in terms of the black box, other computer data, other evidence, if you will, from the investigation, from your looking at these pictures, these pictures, in your expertise, do you assume that most, if not all of that, is intact, salvageable?
SCHIAVO: It is. And there have been many crashes like this that I've had an opportunity to work on those cases. And planes that look even worse. One of the ones I worked on was the Pierson -- the Toronto Pierson airport crash of Air France, and there, there was literally nothing left of the plane in except the wings and a little bit of the tail. But the black boxes are tough.
One of them, if you recall, survived the Pennsylvania 9/11 crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania pen and the intense fire. So they will be intact. They will have the pocket voice recording but of course they have the pilots to talk to which is something they don't often have.
And the parameters, what's recorded on a data recorder on a 777, I think there are 253 parameters, literally everything the plane is doing mechanically is on this black box because the 777 has one of most advanced black boxes that there is. And so they will have all of the data of what was going on and they will have precise altitude throttle settings. And plus they have the radar tracings and they will know exactly where they were. And the heights at split second printouts.
KING: And is that the preponderance of what they're looking for? Or will interviews with the passengers? How much of -- how much do they weigh in an investigation like this? SCHIAVO: Well, they weigh mightily because the great thing about the NTSB is they do more than just find out the mechanics of why this plane went down, what mistakes were made. They also are going to be looking into survivability because so much has improved in the last decade or so of how to make sure as many passengers as possible do survive.
And so they're going to be looking into survivability factors, too. You know who initiated the exit? Did the -- did the pilot, for example, there's a -- there's a switch or a button in the cockpit as you push to initiate the emergency evacuation, was that timely pushed? Who led the evacuation? Did the slides all deploy? And if not, why not? And what can they do because one of the life saving things that the NTSB does is make recommendations on survivability in addition to just what caused the plane to go down. So each and every time we have an accident, fewer and fewer people have to perish.
KING: It is of no comfort to the families of the two people confirmed dead tonight, Mary Schiavo, but when you look at the pictures of those -- that plane, can you believe that hours later, the conversation we're having and let's hope the numbers do not go up, only two confirmed dead?
SCHIAVO: Well, yes. And we have been fortunate. For example, the American Airlines crash in Jamaica, about three or four years ago, everyone survived. The crash in Toronto Pierson, everyone survived. The crash of a British Airways plane in London City, everyone survived. And so it is getting to the point and the statistics show that more than half of people in crashes overall survive.
So it's the survivable thing now and it's -- it's wonderful one of condolences to the families of those who were lost but those who made it well, the NTSB's investigation will help those and more in the future.
KING: Mary Schiavo, we appreciate your insights this evening very much. Thank you so much for joining us.
And Boeing has released a statement this evening. The airline says, quote, "Boeing extends its deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who perished in the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 accident in San Francisco as well as it wishes the recovery of those injured. Boeing will join the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board at their request to provide technical assistance to the investigation.
We'll continue to keep an eye on these developments in San Francisco. But up next, another update from another place we're watching very closely tonight -- Egypt.
KING: The latest now on another major story we're tracking tonight. It's Sunday morning in Egypt, where there's confusion and uncertainty over who will be the country's new prime minister. Egyptian state media reported opposition leader Mohammed Elbaradei would be sworn in Saturday afternoon, but that never happened.
And now officials say there's no final decision on who will get the job. Meantime supporters of the deposed president Mohamed Morsy, are keeping up pressure. Thousands stayed up all night for a massive rally. You see it at Nasr City, east of central Cairo. They also marched around the Republican Guard barracks where heavily armed soldiers stood behind barbed wire. Both sides accusing the other of standing in the way of Egypt's young democracy.
Senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman with the details.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a battle being played out in the streets. Opposing demonstrations where the only common element is passionate conviction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the right and they are the one. You have know that and have the world know we're not a terrorist. We're not a terrorist. We're here to save Tahrir Square, just as -- to protest against a terrorist regime.
WEDEMAN: Hatred for the Muslim Brotherhood called simply (INAUDIBLE), runs deep amongst Morsy's opponents as does anger at the United States for its perceived ambivalence over his ouster.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not trying to get into Tahrir Square. They are using weapons, they are killing people. And we are on the edge of a civil war because of the U.S. support to Tehran, and because of the U.S. deport to terrorism. What's going on now is that we have peaceful protest for more than four days to oust the president. The fascist president of the fascist the group of MD.
WEDEMAN: Passion mirrored on the other side.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one is going to take our votes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A legitimate election.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then it's just --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the people have approved this election --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Legitimacy, he's our legitimate president. How can he take this from us?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is a legal president. And these are our people. They are also Egyptians.
WEDEMAN: Huge numbers turned out over the last week demanding then celebrating the ouster of Mohamed Morsy. But the powerful Muslim Brotherhood is taking is lying down.
(On camera): For more than the 80 years, the Muslim Brotherhood struggled under successive regimes. Its members pursued, persecuted and imprisoned. Now one year they had a taste of power and they've lost it. But they're not about to go quietly into the night.
(Voice-over): Both sides digging in, there seems little room for compromise.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Either heaven or to die here.
WEDEMAN: For one Morsy supporter the choice is stark. Either democracy or Taliban, he says. The message, either the ballot box or the bullet.
Ben Wedeman, CNN, Cairo.