As investigators continue to piece together what happened at San Francisco International Airport last weekend, reports suggest that the immediate response to the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 was not as quick as it could have been. Members of the flight crew say there were originally told by pilots to not evacuate the plane when it came to stop, and instead told passengers to stay in their seats. It was nearly two minutes before a flight attendant noticed that the plane was on fire and the evacuation procedure began. Also, at least two of the flight attendants were also thrown from the plane on impact, which could also have hampered the response.
It's not clear if the delay contributed in any way to some of the passenger's injuries. Some of the crew members held a brief press conference (against the wishes of the NTSB investigation team) at San Francisco Airport before heading back to South Korea on Wednesday, but most were too distraught to speak.
The San Jose Mercury News also published some of the 9-1-1 calls that came in immediately after the crash, both from witnesses and those on the plane. Though it appeared that fire and safety crews responded quickly to the incident, on at least one of the calls, a woman complains to dispatchers that no one has come to help after nearly 20 minutes of being on the ground. The woman, identified as Cindy Stone, had apparently ventured further down the runway to help people who had been thrown from the plane, She and her family members found four injured women who were further down the tarmac from the main wreckage.
On her call to rescuers, Stone became worried that the injured woman she was helping was not going to make it.
"We've been on the ground and have not seen one ambulance the whole time," Cindy Stone says in the recording. "No ambulances on site for this plane crash. Lots of fire engines in the distance; not one ambulance out here on the tarmac." ... "We're almostlosing a woman here, we're trying to keep her alive."
Part of the reason for the slow response, of course, is that unlike many other air disasters, there was little to no warning that anything was amiss with the flight. Investigators are still trying to piece together the final moments of the plane's descent, but it still seems that no one was aware of any issues until just seconds before the plane hit the ground. However, the major culprit in both the crash and the slow evacuation may be the inexperience of the pilots, who had never flown into SFO before and were working together in their respective roles for the first time.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.