Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 plane – believed to be carrying 291 – crash landed at San Francisco airport this afternoon reportedly killing at least two passengers and injuring 61.
The tail of the Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 flight from South Korea was ripped off in the tragic accident around 11.30 a.m. PDT and a huge blaze tore through the plane which onlookers described as spinning around on impact.
Horrific photographs of the damage emerged moments after the crash as well as cellphone videos of the plane as it spun out of control.
At least two of those on-board were killed, authorities have confirmed, with a further 61 injured.
Several other passengers managed to escape unscathed and could be seen fleeing down emergency inflatable slides.
A coastguard team was also dispatched to search the nearby water.
A huge smoke cloud could be seen for miles from the site of San Francisco International and tourists in the airport terminal and on waiting flights could only look on in horror as the plane spun across the runway on its belly.
Onlookers said much of the tail came off in the crash while others reported seeing the plane’s fuselage spinning around as it journeyed across the concourse.
The entire ceiling of the plane was destroyed in the blaze that immediately followed.
Emergency workers rushed to its aid and doused it with white foam to try and control the flames. They were able to help those who were miraculously able to escape the wreckage and were seen fleeing down emergency slides.
According to an excerpt of the radio recorded at the airport tower the plane was cleared to lane at 18.21, just over a minute later the flight called in and appears to have called for emergency assistance.
An onlooker named Kristina Stapchuck told CNN it looked like the tires split and the plane leaned back on the tail before the tail broke off.
Others described it as “cartwheeling” across the runway.
One witness told CNN that there didn’t seem to be any preparations for a crash landing before the plane came in suggesting it was an issue that only emerged on landing.
The weather conditions were also described as ideal for San Francisco airport which can often be blighted with fog and poor visibility.
Luckily no other standing planes were caught in the accident despite dozens waiting to take off from the major airport.
The plane departed Incheon airport near South Korea’s capital around 10 hours ago and was due to land at 9.45 a.m. on the West Coast.
All flights in and out of San Francisco have now been cancelled with several being diverted to nearby Oakland International or Los Angeles.
Face CEO Sheryl Sandberg was supposed to be on the flight but decided to change her flight last minute so she could use air miles on a United flight instead, according to her post on Facebook.
“Taking a minute to be thankful and explain what happened. My family, colleagues Debbie Frost, Charlton Gholson and Kelly Hoffman and I were originally going to take the Asiana flight that just crash-landed. We switched to United so we could use miles for my family’s tickets. Our flight was scheduled to come in at the same time, but we were early and landed about 20 minutes before the crash.”
Asiana is a South Korean airline, second in size to national carrier Korean Air. It has recently tried to expand its presence in the United States, and joined the OneWorld alliance, anchored by American Airlines and British Airways.
The 777-200 is a long-range plane from Boeing. The twin-engine aircraft is one of the world’s most popular long-distance planes, often used for flights of 12 hours or more, from one continent to another. The airline’s website says its 777s can carry between 246 to 300 passengers.
The last time a large U.S. airline lost a plane in a fatal crash was an American Airlines Airbus A300 taking off from JFK in 2001.
Smaller airlines have had crashes since then. The last fatal U.S. crash was a Continental Express flight operated by Colgan Air, which crashed into a house near Buffalo, N.Y. on February 12, 2009. The crash killed all 49 people on board and one man in a house.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team of investigators to San Francisco to probe the crash. NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said Saturday that NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman would head the team.