In the final moments of a routine 11-hour flight from Seoul on July 6, the crew of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 realized the jetliner was approaching San Francisco International Airport too slowly. Seconds later, the Boeing 777 dipped close to the bay waters, hit a seawall and then crashed, igniting a deadly blaze. Amazingly, all but two of the 307 people aboard survived.
Eugene Rah, music producer, 47: As we descended I opened my window blinder. I knew something was wrong because I should not have seen the water so close. Then I heard the noise of the pilot trying to send more power to the engine to push the plane back up. I felt I had little hope of survival and that this would be a painful death. I imagined what my 13-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter would have to live with – their dad dying in a plane crash. I cannot forget the feeling of the impact. This was not a landing, this was a crash. There was a moment of silence, then people started screaming again and moving around.
Eunice Rah, his daughter, happened to be watching CNN and learned of the crash: I thought, “That’s so terrible.” And then I realized my father was on the flight. My gut told me, “Oh, no!” I texted him, “Are you okay?” A few minutes later he texted back, “I have escaped safe.”
Eugene Rah: Everyone got off in an orderly way. Passengers helped each other, and flight attendants helped people off. One of the escape chutes deployed inside the plane instead of outside of it, pinning a flight attendant. Me and another man tried to deflate it, but we didn’t have anything sharp. A man who may have been a crew member found a way to deflate it and free her. There was no fire until most of the passengers got off the plane.
Of the 180 or so passengers and crew members requiring medical attention, 55 were taken to Stanford Hospital and Clinics. Dr. Eric Weiss, medical director of the hospital’s Office of Emergency Management: I was amazed there were not more serious injuries and fatalities. We saw the effects caused by the plane turning on its side and people being thrown into their armrests. It was a real credit to the crew members and the emergency medical responders who got the passengers off the plane so quickly and safely.
Dr. David Spain, chief of Trauma and Critical Care at Stanford Hospital: We saw spine fractures and rib fractures, but no one with spinal-cord injuries.
Eunice Rah: I was numb. I knew people had died. But once I was reunited with my father, time continued from there.