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The Crash of Flight 214; NTSB Examining Flight Recorders; Stunned Reaction to Asiana Airlines Crash; Snowden Has Three Asylum Offers; Severe Injuries After Plane Crash; Zimmerman Trials Resumes Tomorrow; Investigating Flight 214; Survivors Recount What Happened; Procession for Arizona Firefighters

Aired July 7, 2013 - 14:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again everyone, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. A look at our top stories this hour in the NEWSROOM. Investigators are on the scene in San Francisco trying to figure out why a plane crashed landed less than 24 hours ago. They already have a couple of big clues. The flight recorders from the record. We're live in San Francisco, next.

And survivors share their stories of the stunning moments after the crash. How they crawled out of the plane to safety thinking that everyone made it out only to learn later, otherwise.

We start in San Francisco. Investigators there are trying to piece together what happened just before noon yesterday when that plane crashed on the runway. The flight recorders have been recovered, the NTSB tweeted out these photos of the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder. Investigators hope that will give the critical clue to explain what happened just before that plane hit.

Here's what we know right now about the victims. Two 16-year-old girls were killed in that crash. They're Chinese nationals. Asiana Airlines identifies them as Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia. Officials say, their bodies were found on the runway. All 305 other people on that flight survived but some are in critical condition. The FAA said this afternoon that some flights destined for San Francisco could be delayed up to nine hours.

Dan Simon joins us live right now from the airport. So, Dan, give us the latest.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Fred. What we can tell you at this hour is that investigators are aggressively searching for clues to figure out what happened here. As you said, those flight data recorders have been recovered, they were shipped to Washington, D.C. Presumably data is going to be extracted from those flight data recorders hopefully that will yield some clues.

At this point Fredricka, nothing has been ruled out including pilot error. Now, the airlines CEO says that apparently there was no problem with the engine or no mechanical problems with that airplane. And we should also point out that survivors and witnesses say that it appeared that the seven-year-old aircraft lost speed, maybe came in a bit too low and then they report that the tail hit the runway and then spun out of control.

Also, we should point out that officials say that the airport technology called the instrument landing system or ILS, which normally helps pilots correctly approach the runway was not operating at the time of the crash. We don't know if in fact that played a role. But we should also point out that that system had not been operating since June and pilots, you know, were able to navigate the runway just fine. And also, of course, survivors tell us that they heard no warning from either flight attendants or the pilot shortly before the crash. That's all we know at this point. The next briefing Fredricka is going to be at 4:30 Eastern Time where we expect the NTSB to update us on the investigation. We'll send it back to you.

WHITFIELD: OK. And then Dan, our investigators saying anything more about what took place, the sequence of events after the plane came to its resting stop after that crash landing. We're hearing all kinds of different eyewitness accounts but I wonder if that part of the story something investigators want to piece together to get the full picture.

SIMON: You know, what we know is that obviously the exits, the emergency exits were opened. You saw the slides, the dispatch and people obviously got out of the airplane quickly. I think what's really interesting to note Fredricka is that 192 passengers self- evacuated. They were able to get on buses, come to the terminal. Obviously, if they sustained any injuries, they would have been very minor. It's also not worthy that they got out just in time before that fuselage really caught fire. And so, you know, had they waited, you know, just a couple minutes longer, you would have been dealing with a very much different situation, to put it mildly.

WHITFIELD: Indeed. All right. Dan Simon. Thanks so much. Keep us posted. Survivors don't always walk away from crashes like this one. And the stories we're hearing from witnesses are simply riveting.

Ben Levy was on the plane and says, it was clear to him that something was wrong, he feels very lucky to be here today.


BEN LEVY, CRASH SURVIVOR: Sign that we're about to land. The nose of the plane, as you know, goes up a little bit. And waiting full throttles, start hitting hard and then we felt like we were going up again. That's why I say I felt like we were going to pull one of those almost mis-landing and go back up. And it didn't happen, we just crashed back. So, if we flipped, none of us would be here to talk about it.

You know, first of all, there was a lot of Koreans that might not speak English that well. But yes, it was disbelief, screaming, a bit of chaos. But I think we managed to get everybody to calm down pretty quickly and really started getting out and not pushing each other or stepping on each other. So, it felt like it went pretty fast.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: Wow! Pretty remarkable. At San Francisco General Hospital emergency room doctors had to set up tents to take care of the injured after that crash, while the most seriously hurt were rushed to the operating rooms. And CNN's Kyung Lah joins us with much more on all that is taking place at that hospital. Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Fredricka. We're actually expecting our first update of the day from the hospital just a few minutes. You can see that some of the podiums have been gathered over here and we are expecting the PIO to come and update us. As of last night, the very latest information we had is that 53 patients were brought here to San Francisco General. This is the only level one trauma unit in the entire city. So, some of the most seriously injured were brought here as of last night, six critical.

We are expecting those numbers to move somewhat, hoping that those numbers will improve the latest information that we're getting from the hospital we're expecting shortly. But in the meantime, we've heard some extraordinary tales from people who were aboard this plane. I sat down with a man this morning were sitting in business class. He says he looked out to the right, he saw the water and he knew. Here's what Eugene Rah told us.


EUGENE RAH, PLANE CRASH SURVIVOR: I just knew we would have a crash and I thought I was going to die. And then when it hit, you know, the runway so hard, yes, it was obvious.

LAH: Did you think anything about your wife? You're daughter? You're family, was there anything that --

RAH: Of course, all my loved one just, you know, flashed in my eyes.


LAH: He says, it's kind of an extraordinary moment when you think, in that split second, that your life is over, what you think about. He says he could not sleep all night. That when he takes a moment to pause and to breathe, all he can think about is that exact moment. And Fredricka, I actually interviewed him outside. You could hear some of the planes from San Francisco flying overhead every single time a plane went over you could actually see him flinch. So, certainly just 24 hours later, he's having an extraordinarily difficult time trying to process all of this.

WHITFIELD: Yes. I know. He's described it as being like a slide show, he just keeps recalling that memory over and over again about what he was feeling in that plane at the time of that crash. Now, Kyung, I wonder over all, you know, there's going to be that press conference you just mentioned momentarily. But have you learned anything about the injuries overall that doctors are treating just ahead of that presser?

LAH: Well, what the doctors have been saying here, we heard from the head of the ER, that it's a number of injuries that they're seeing, primarily bumps and bruises. We mentioned that very large number, 53. There was a huge triage here last night. A lot of those patients were what they described as walking wounded. The ones who are more seriously injured, they're worried about some smoke inhalation.

Because remember, this was a fire aboard the plane even though most of the passengers were able to get out before that fire broke out. There was still a lot of smoke filling that plane especially towards the rear. They're also worried about some of the fractures but the spinal injuries, that is what the doctors are focusing on. Because when they landed so hard, a lot of the passengers' heads hit the top of the plane, so we're hoping to get much more information on how those patients are doing.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kyung Lah. Thanks so much. We'll return to you and to that hospital when that press conference gets under way.

And also, next hour, we're going to be talking live to Mr. Eugene Rah who Kyung spoke with outside that hospital. We'll be talking to Mr. Rah and his daughter live right here in the NEWSROOM next hour.

All right. Let's take a look at some of other stories making news this hour. It could be another long intense night in Egypt where people are already gathering in several parts of Cairo. Supporters of the deposed president are demanding his reinstatement, opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood are also planning to protest.

And the George Zimmerman murder trial is set to resume tomorrow in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman's defense team will pick up where it left off on Friday. We'll go to Sanford, Florida in a few minutes to find out what dramatic moments we might expect in the coming week.

And at least five people are dead and police say many more deaths are expected after an unmanned train exploded leveling part of the Canadian town near the U.S. border. Around 40 people still missing. A train company officials says, the train came loose after an engineer tied it down before checking into a motel for the night.

And weather conditions were pretty good when that Asiana Airlines jet crashed landed in San Francisco yesterday. Meteorologist Karen MaGinnis is here with more. What kind of conditions the investigators can expect on the ground there, as they try to piece things together?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right, Fred. And as they pull all the information together they certainly need some conducive conditions and it looks like the next several days we will see that. But at the time of the crash, visibility was 10 miles and greater, virtually clear skies. And over the next several days, we're looking at those temperatures, mostly in the low 70s.

We'll start to see increasing cloud cover and maybe better chances of rain later on in the week but it looks like at least in this short term, we're looking at some fairly nice conditions. So, very hot and steamy weather along the Eastern seaboard and especially places like Boston and New York and Philadelphia, the heat is still on across the southwest but it is oppressively hot along that I-95 corridor into the northeast. In the southeast, rainfall just does not want to let up. WHITFIELD: OK. I'm sorry, Karen. I need to interrupt you. We need to go to San Francisco General Hospital as promised, press conference under way, this is the first one since that crash. Let's listen in.

RACHAEL KAGAN, SAN FRANCISCO GENERAL HOSPITAL CHIEF COMMUNICATING OFFICER: I know that some of you are interested in learning more about that. And a whole gang of people. Another fabulous San Francisco General Hospital staff, the administrator on duty, our trauma coordinator and our San Francisco sheriff is also here. Ross Mirkarimi. So, let me get right to it. The update as of 11:00 a.m. today -- yes.

It's OK, I'll wait.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Thank goodness.

KAGAN: We're all at work, right? OK. Tell me when you're ready, sir. Yes? OK. So as of today, San Francisco General Hospital has treated 53 patients from the airline accident. That is the most number of patients that any hospital has treated. We had 27 adults and 26 children. We currently have 19 patients admitted and 34 have been discharged. Of the 19 who are admitted, that includes six critically injured patients including one child.

The remaining patients, the other 13, range in condition from serious to fair to good. We talked a little bit yesterday about the types of injuries they sustained. And I'll let the Dr. Knudson reinforce that in a moment. The ages of the adults range from 20 to 76. We have multi-lingual patients, Korean speakers, Chinese speakers, English speakers, we have staff and interprets who speak all those languages, so we have been able to provide care to patients and their families in their own language. I think that's the update. Was there anything -- other loose ends from yesterday?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The child, how old is this child? Male or female?

KAGAN: It's a female minor. I'm not going to release the age.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Can you tell me a breakdown of the (INAUDIBLE).

KAGAN: No, I don't have that information.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Of the six critical, do any have life-threatening injuries?

KAGAN: Well, that's what critical is. So they've been in surgery, they've been in intensive care. I'll let the Dr. Knudson speak to that. I just wanted to make sure this data, this update is clear to everyone before we move onto the other clinical issues. OK? Great. So Dr. Knudson. Spell your name.

DR. MARGARET KNUDSON, SANFORD GENERAL HOSPITAL: I'm Dr. Margaret Knudson, K-n-u-d-s-o-n. I'm Dr. Margaret Knudson, the chief of surgery here from San Francisco General Hospital. I also happen to have been on service yesterday on call. Call starts at 7:00 in the morning for us. We got a call at noon that there was a multi-casualty event that occurred. My job that day is to go down to the trauma rooms and to try to sort out the most critically injured patients.

By the time I got down to the Emergency Department, we already were receiving critically injured patients. We had four rooms going at the same time of the most critical. I have to say that whoever triaged these patients at the airport did a fabulous job because they got to us the sickest patients in the shortest period of time or I don't think those patients would have survived, truly. So, my job was to make sure that the patients were addressed by teams. I had four trauma teams ready to go. I had five operating rooms that were ready and staff and set to take care of these patients. We had three of them go directly to surgery.

One team that I led, a couple other surgeons led the other teams and we cleaned out the emergency rooms for most critically injured patients in a very short period of time. I can address some of the injuries that we've seen, which are a different pattern. We are used to seeing multiple injured patients and multiple kinds of injuries at this hospital, but we have seen a different pattern in these types of injuries. Of course, we're not super experienced with airline crashes, fortunately, but what we did see are patterns of large amounts of abdominal injuries, a huge amount of spine fracture, some of them which include paralysis, we have seen some head trauma and multiple types of orthopedic injuries.

So, that's the pattern that we are seeing. We also saw some patients that had severe road rash suggesting that they were dragged. We're not sure if those patients were outside of the plane and this is what happened to them but both of those patients are alive. Once we were done with the initial trauma resuscitation and the first set of surgery, we had all people who assembled to help us out and this included huge numbers of people that we didn't call but came in to help us. And we had all those people in the same room. And by this time, we had lists of 32 people that had been seen and looked at.

And this huge team of people which included orthopedic surgeons, the Neurosurgeons, the Emergency Department surgeons and anesthesiologist and the radiologist, we all sat together in the room and went over every single patients to be sure that we had identified at least by type of given name, who those patients were and what their injuries were so that we didn't miss anybody. After that, we had another set of traumas to run through. We did run a little bit short of blood at one time.

But thanks to the blood bank in San Francisco, we were able to catch up and to get what we needed. Some of our patients have been operated on twice already and there's going to be many many more surgeries to come still. I guess at this point, I can answer questions.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Six critical, can you describe the injuries?

KNUDSON: Yes. So the most critical injuries are two -- are head trauma and severe intra-abdominal injuries with bleeding. And then there are several people, as I mentioned, with very bad spine fractures, some of which include paralysis.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: How many patients were experiencing burns? KNUDSON: We have some very minor burns but we did not see major burns. And we were expecting burns and we didn't see them.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You mentioned two had road rash, they were dragged?

KNUDSON: Yes. It appears they were dragged over something.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Do you know where in the plane the most critically injured were sitting?

KNUDSON: Yes. Everybody that has been able to give us some information said, they were sitting in the back of the plane. Obviously we have patients we can't talk to.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: These were the most severe?

KNUDSON: The patients that are awake enough to talk to us said that they were sitting in the back of the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: How many are unconscious?

KNUDSON: Of the patients that are in the hospital, 15, 16.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The ones most severely injured in the back of the plane, could you describe what happened (INAUDIBLE)

WHITFIELD: All right. Pretty remarkable account coming from doctors at San Francisco General Hospital talking about the fact that there are 19 still admitted at the hospital right now. Less than half of them are in critical condition and the types of injuries of greatest severity include large abdominal injuries and spine injuries. This doctor right here, Dr. Knudson describing some of the fractures leading to paralysis and among the most severe case of injuries are those involving head trauma. We're talking about victims from the ages of 20 to 76 that remain hospitalized and then there is a minor, one child that also remains hospitalized there at San Francisco General Hospital.

But also a big kudos coming from the doctor there saying that whoever carried out the triage of a number of the patients that were -- before they actually arrived at the hospital actually did a great job, so she did commend those who treated and those who helped many of these patients before they even left at the airport area arriving there at San Francisco General. So, of course, when we get any more information or any status changes of any of the patients they continue to treat there at San Francisco general, we'll bring that to you. We're going to have much more straight ahead from the NEWSROOM after this.


WHITFIELD: Twenty four hours after that crash landing, of course the shock we all felt was mirrored across the Pacific Ocean. In cities like Seoul and Beijing, people saw pictures of the crash and prayed that their loved ones were OK.

CNN's Diana Magnay reports from Seoul, on the reaction overseas.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Shocking images of Asiana flight 214 from Asia looking for instance from this tragedy. Now, teams of safety inspectors from South Korea government officials, airline officials, all en route all landed already in San Francisco from Seoul to try and find those answers. This plane had originated in Shanghai. That's why there were so many Chinese nationals on board including a team of 25 middle school students who were en route to a summer camp. And very sad details. The two -- the names released of the two Chinese teenage girls who lost their lives in the crash according to the San Francisco fire brigade, their bodies found outside on the runway. Asiana Airlines' boss gave an abject apology for the accident.


YOON YOUNG-DOO, PRESIDENT AND CEO, ASIANA AIRLINES (through a translator): I am very sorry to worry families of passengers as well as our people. I bow my head in apology.


MAGNAY: But Mr. Yoon said, he didn't believe engine failure was to blame. This was a fairly new aircraft brought into service in 2006 and flown by experienced pilots. The pilots in charge at the time of the crash had some 10,000 flight hours beneath his belt, he was described as an Asiana veteran who've been flying for the airline since 2006. The Korean NSAT (ph) inspectors will team up with the NTSB, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board to try and work out what went wrong.

But officials in Seoul have warned that it may take some time for this investigation. At the very least, six months and possibly two years. Meanwhile, of course, dozens of passengers still in critical condition in the hospitals around San Francisco. Diana Magnay, CNN, Seoul.

WHITFIELD: Edward Snowden gets some new offers for asylum but does he have any real options? We go live to Venezuela, one of the countries prepared to accept Snowden if and when he is able to leave Russia.


WHITFIELD: The man behind the NSA leaks, Edward Snowden, has a big choice to make. Where will he seek asylum? Since Friday, he's received offers from Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua but Venezuela just said yesterday that they actually haven't heard from Snowden.

Matthew Chance joining us live right now from Caracas, Venezuela. So, Matthew has any one heard from Snowden?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. As far as we know, Fredricka, he's still holed up in the transit terminal of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport. You're right. Venezuelan officials have said, they haven't made contact with him yet, they haven't spoken to him since this offer of asylum was made. Their expectation is that they will do that on Monday inside that terminal building. But the offer is genuinely there. It's on the table.

The President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro saying that he is offering what he calls humanitarian asylum, so that Snowden can come to the father land of Hugo Chavez and to live away from imperial North American persecutions. Snowden also been offered a potential asylum in Bolivia and in Nicaragua as well. The big question though Fredricka, how on earth is this NSA leaker going to get from Moscow to any of those countries?

I mean, he doesn't have a travel documents. Even if he gets one, it's going to be very difficult for him to find an aircraft that's going to be out to avoid not just counties that have an extradition treaty with the United States but also potentially flying through airspace of countries that are sympathetic to the U.S. as well -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Oh, so now, what about Cuba? And might that be a route?

CHANCE: Well, it would be, if the airspace issue weren't a problem, yes certainly, even though Cuba does have an extradition treaty with the United States, there is a suggestion it may allow a plane from Moscow to arrive in Havana and to allow Snowden to transit on to Caracas or some other South American capital that may want to give him asylum. The problem is that the Bolivian president encountered this a few days back, Evo Morales, even the suggestion that Snowden was on his plane made some European countries essentially force his presidential aircraft to land and, you know, the same may happen with a commercial airliner.

WHITFIELD: All right. Very complicated, Matthew Chance, keep us posted on that. Thanks so much.

All right, next in the NEWSROOM, the flight recorders are already in Washington and no potential cause is being ruled out. Straight ahead, the latest clues into what caused that crash landing of Asiana Flight 214?


WHITFIELD: We're following every update coming out of San Francisco, following that plane crash and we're expecting to hear more from the NTSB in about two hours from now. Two 16-9-year-old girls died on that flight. Asiana Airlines said they were both Chinese and we just got more details about the injured from officials at the San Francisco General Hospital. They say they have six people who remain in critical condition including one child. They have been seeing injuries ranging from head trauma to paralysis.

The George Zimmerman murder trial is set to resume tomorrow in Sanford, Florida. The defense will continue after calling Zimmerman's mother to the stand on Friday. We'll go to Sanford, Florida, in just a few minutes for a live look ahead.

It's been a 77-year drought, but a British player has once again won the Wimbledon title. Andy Murray beat former champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets. Murray made it to the final last year before losing to Roger Federer. Murray, well, he took to the Twitter right away after winning typing, quote, "Can't believe what just happened!" While ecstatic actor, Russell Crowe, Andy Murray, you champion, well done son. Congrats to Murray.

All right, art collector, Charles Saatchi and his famous television chef wife, Nigella Lawson are getting a divorce. The former tycoon says he's seeking the breakup. It comes after photos were published of him with his hands around Nigella's throat at a London restaurant last month.

More now on that San Francisco crash, when we come back, I'll ask about an aviation safety engineer about the plane, its design and what investigators are looking for now after that crash.


WHITFIELD: The National Transportation Safety Board is going over the flight data and voice recorders that were on board Asiana Flight 214. We got insight earlier from man who knows a lot about Boeing jets. He is a former Boeing aviation safety engineer and he spoke with CNN's John King.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 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 does 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, we all get used to technology on airplanes, is the computer flying the plane or is the pilot flying the plane?

CURTIS: Typically the pilot is going to be hand flying the plane right at the final approach there. This was a day, where it was a relatively good weather day. They didn't have to have a full auto on system in place. Even when you have a lot of automated systems right at the point of touchdown or right before touchdown, you are 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. Again, this is something that has to be discovered through the cockpit voice recorder and the digital flight data recorder. How exactly -- how fast this aircraft was going both horizon horizontally along the ground and it's 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 with the fuselage pretty much in intact except for the damage caused by the fire. What does that tell you about impact and the 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 structural damage, which made it very difficult to control the aircraft. Also if you look closely towards the end of the fuselage, you see what seems to be a tear in a bunch of metal. That seems to be the air pressure bulkhead so you probably had very serious structural damage within the rear part of the fuselage as well.

KING: And once the rare 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 dynamics of the aircraft in that situation far different from what you would see during a normal landing. Again, I like to emphasize that one thing we're not quite sure of because the investigators haven't really got there is what was the vertical speed of this aircraft at touchdown.

As we say, 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 have major portions of the aircraft like the landing gear coming off soon after touchdown.

KING: 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: The top two or three will be, what is the statement or what are the statements from the two pilots flaying 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 very important to know.

Also from outward appearances to 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 this minutes or hours leading up to the landing? Were you were taken off your usual schedule? Were you doing things not on the checklist? Were you not following procedures? Was there anything out of place or out of the ordinary prior to landing?


WHITFIELD: We're also getting some very dramatic first person accounts of what happened on board Flight 214. You'll hear another dramatic story from a survivor after this.


WHITFIELD: We've been hearing the harrowing accounts from passengers who are on board that Asiana Flight 214. The Boeing 777 had been in the air more than 10 hours from Seoul, South Korea, when it crash landed at San Francisco International Airport. Our Wolf Blitzer spoke with passenger Elliott Stone.


ELLIOTT STONE, PASSENGER ON ASIANA FLIGHT 214 (via telephone): -- perfect the whole time, like 10 seconds from being home and seemed like we were a little bit high, like we could see the tarmac down below us and so are coming down kind of sharp, and then, right when it started to coast for the landing, all of a sudden, the engine was off, like you sped up, like the pilot knew he was short.

And, boom, the back end just hit and flies up in the air and everybody's head goes up to the ceiling and then it kind of drifts for a little bit 300 yards and tips over, fire starts, everybody's pushing the doors out. Then, once we're on the go around, everybody was all huddled on one side.

My family and I went to this other side and like 20 minutes later, this lady just appears from like 500 yards away, just like crippled, just walking. We started running over and like another five bodies were like 500 yards away that nobody saw. So we're running over there, calling an ambulance and stuff, but ambulances took 20, 30 minutes to get there. It's pretty ridiculous.

We're yelling at people, yelling at firefighters, get over here! Get over here! They're lagging hard, at the airport for hours, nothing. Not really impressed with the whole protocol and system in place for this type of thing.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": Elliott, where were you sitting on the plane?

STONE: We were really fortunate. We're central, a family of four, my girlfriend, her sister and two other, my martial arts students. We're all pretty central to the back end, got knocked off right on that landing. So it's flight attendants on the tarmac or way in the back. They were sitting in the back end got hammered because we landed short and they all fell out. It was just the most terrible thing I've seen, you know, and yelling for people and no one was coming for days, bad.

BLITZER: Just to get it straight, you were sitting in coach near the back of the plane, is that what you were saying?

STONE: We were sitting in the middle. We were super happy, all together in the middle. Once it happened, we consoled each other and doors opened and there was pushing and rushing out. The middle was pretty safe.

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


BLITZER: What did they tell you to do? Get out of your seat? You were fastened in your seat and tried to get out down the chutes, is that what you tried to do? STONE: Just everyone was doing -- the first announcement was everyone stay calm. We're like, what? Everyone was leaving, so buckle up or buckle down and just rushed out the doors. There wasn't any slide or anything, we didn't have a slide. We just jumped off.

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


BLITZER: Did you see a lot of people injured?

STONE: Yes. There were probably like 50 to 75 people kind of like on structures and had neck braces and stuff. There were five we saw just terrible, like, you know, bad news. Those are the flight attendants that got dropped out the back. The back got the worst of it and that's what opened up where the flight attendants sit and got out and we fishtailed 300 yards and slide and rolled over, fire started. That's when everyone, all the passengers jumped out. There's nobody where the flight attendants jumped out at the very beginning, nobody over there, no emergency, nothing for the longest time.


WHITFIELD: Wow, extraordinary first person account. We'll have more from other eyewitness, those who were passengers on board later on.

We now also turn to Arizona. The firefighters who died in last Sunday's blaze are headed home in a sombre procession. We'll take you there live.


WHITFIELD: All right, happening right now in Arizona, the bodies of 19 fallen firefighters are being taken from Phoenix to Prescott. They were part of an elite Hotshot group of firefighters killed last Sunday fighting Arizona wildfires. Nick Valencia is joining me now. Nick, you could see right there an awful lot of people have turned out for this procession.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hundreds have turned out. This is going to be a dedication to these fallen firefighters. They're expecting other Hotshot units from across the United States to show up and it's 100-mile stretch from Phoenix, Arizona to Prescott. They are going from the coroner's office in Phoenix to the coroner's office in their hometown, just a very sad day for a lot of the family members there.

Of course, some of these people were in the prime of their lives, Fred. One firefighter leaves behind a pregnant fiance, they were expecting their first child this fall. They're certainly remembering their legacy. This is not going be the only dedication this week. On Tuesday, this memorial service for these 19 firefighters, Vice President Joe Biden is expected to show up. All eyes right now on Prescott, Arizona and Phoenix as this very sombre procession happens.

WHITFIELD: We're talking about an elite group of firefighters calling themselves "Hotshots." They really go in when other leave.

VALENCIA: They are on the frontline and what they were doing, they were setting up a barricade in this -- and a barrier and is now 90 percent contained fire when the wind shifted on them, Fred. They didn't anticipate the wind to shift on them, a wall of fire for formed. It took out 19 firefighters. This is the deadliest day for U.S. firefighters since September 11th.

WHITFIELD: Wow, hard to believe. All right, thanks so much. Of course, there are so many people coming out to pay homage to those very courageous firefighters. Nick Valencia, thanks so much.

George Zimmerman back in court first thing tomorrow, the defense team gets a chance to present its side of the story. We'll get a live preview from Sanford, next.


WHITFIELD: To Florida now where the trial of George Zimmerman is set to resume tomorrow morning 9:00 Eastern Time. The defense will continue its case off the top. On Friday, George Zimmerman's mom, Gladys, testified that it was her son screaming on the 911 tape recorded the night Zimmerman shot and killed Martin. That after the prosecution's witness Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother testified, it was her son's voice she heard.

Our Martin Savidge is in Sanford, Florida. So Martin, the defense is rolling out its side of the case. Who's up next?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Fredricka. Well, right now, I think we would anticipate you are going to have a little bit of witness deja vu. In other words, some of the witnesses that you saw take the stand on the side of the prosecution are now going to be called back on the side of the defense. That may sound strange, but I think if you recall some of that early testimony, there were a number of people who came out and spoke and sounded almost as if they were providing a defense or aiding the defense of George Zimmerman in this particular case.

I think you're probably also going to hear from those who treated George Zimmerman, talking about the paramedics and others, because that's something the defense will want to reiterate to that jury is the injuries that George Zimmerman says he sustained as a result of being punched in the face first by Trayvon Martin and then beaten while laying on the go around, that is the whole premise of self- defense.

The real question many people want to know, will George Zimmerman take the stand? Mark O'Mara the leading defense attorney talked about the fact and he pointed out that remember George Zimmerman has already made a number of taped statements and those have been public. Listen.


MARK O'MARA, ZIMMERMAN'S DEFENSE LAWYER: If he did not have all of his statements out, if he truly had to get in front of that jury to speak the first word, then I'd probably say he's definitely going to testify. Now, since he has so much information out there from all his statements we'll make our decision in a more dynamic fashion once we see how the rest of the case goes.


SAVIDGE: Most of the observers that I have spoken to said that there is not a chance in the world George Zimmerman would take the stand, mainly, that is based upon the premise that they have seen this case progressing very much in the defense's favor and that if Zimmerman were to take the stand, he could be risking it by possibly misstate original saying something. It is not anticipated he will take the stand. You heard Mark O'Mara say, we'll wait and see -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, fascinating week in the making. Thanks so much, Martin Savidge there in Sanford.

All right, stay with us. At the top of the hour, we'll have all the latest details about that crash investigation now under way in San Francisco.

Plus, amazing stories of survival from passengers who got out alive after this.