Four years ago today, on July 6, 2013, Asiana Airlines flight 214 crash landed and caught fire at SFO, killing three teenage girls and injuring scores of others. Newly surfaced footage, zoomed in from the airline traffic control tower at SFO and discovered by an air travel blogger, shows the plane coming to a rest just off the runway, smoke billowing out one side near the front of the plane, and long, two-minute pause in which no doors open and no emergency chutes are deployed. This was apparently due to the fact that the captain was disoriented and instructed flight attendants initially to keep passengers in their seats, as the Daily Mail reports.
It seems that those onboard didn't initially notice the fire, and according to the NTSB report, "the pilot wanted to first consult with the control tower before opening the doors to make sure it was safe to exit."
Airline safety consultant Captain Dick Deeds tells CBS 5, "To me it was a terrible error, they should have started the evacuation as soon as the plane came to a stop." He adds, "Your job as a flight crew member is the safety of your passengers. And if you have to evacuate, obviously you knew you had a crash, you start the evacuation, you get those people off."
The video was published on the site One Mile At a Time where the blogger noted that the 45-minute video is "clearer and longer than anything else I’ve seen."
Arguably, a quicker or more organized evacuation might have saved one life, that of 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan, who was injured and was lying on the tarmac in front of the left wing when she became obscured by fire retardant foam and was run over by an SFFD vehicle. Deeds says that flight crew members, of whom there were only five flight attendants available to help who were uninjured themselves, made another error in not keeping passengers from milling around near the plane once they were outside.
The new video shows the chaotic scene that led up to that, with air traffic controllers saying in the audio you can here in the CBS 5 video below that they see passengers coming off the plane who "look like they are struggling."
In addition to Ye Meng Yuan, the crash took the lives of two other teenage girls from China who were seated near the tail of the plane, which broke off from the body at impact. They were part of a group of 70 Chinese students who were on their way to the Bay Area for a summer camp program.
Airport spokesman Jon Ballesteros confirmed the authenticity of the video for the Chronicle, saying it had been used for training purposes. He also tried to put a positive spin on it saying, "It illustrates the rapid response of airport firefighters and how quickly they knocked down the fire."
The flight was coming inbound from South Korea the day of the crash with 307 passengers and crew on board, 187 of whom were injured. In their report, the NTSB concluded that poor training on the part of the cabin crew and mismanagement of the descent were to blame for the crash.