- - Monday, July 8, 2013

While U.S. news accounts focused on safety questions, the actions of the pilots and the possible impact on the South Korean airline, South Korean media accounts have focused instead on scores of descriptive accounts of heroism and panic after Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, killing two 16-year-old Chinese students and injuring 181 others.

Flight attendants were hailed as “heroes” by Korean news agencies such as Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. for refusing to leave the burning plane until all passengers were safely evacuated, citing their actions as an example of what proper safety training can do in the event of a disaster.

Cabin manager Lee Yoon-hye, 40, said at a San Francisco news conference Sunday that she was the last person to leave the aircraft, according to The Associated Press. Ms. Lee, who has been with Asiana for almost 20 years, later found out she had broken her tailbone during the crash. Asiana is one of the country’s two major carriers.

Although there is plenty of praise for the flight attendants’ calm post-crash performance, several Korean media outlets emphasized the importance of following safety rules after learning that several passengers who had unbuckled their seat belts before landing were severely injured.


Korean television outlet Maeil Broadcasting Network noted the power of social networks in spreading news quickly. After Samsung Vice President and Flight 777 passenger David Eun vividly described the incident via Twitter, passengers and onlookers posted live video feed from the scene. U.S. regulators said Monday that the Boeing 777 was traveling significantly below the recommended 137-knot runway approach speed three seconds before the crash.

Although the pilot, Lee Gang-guk, had nearly 10,000 hours of flying experience, he had only operated a 777 for 43 hours and had never landed a 777 at San Francisco.

Mr. Lee reportedly tried to abort the landing after he realized that the plane was flying too slow and low. The Boeing landed tail-up and short of the runway, causing the tail to rip off as the jetliner skidded down the runway.

Investigators say the cause of the crash is still unclear, although mainstream Korean media focused its attention on equipment malfunction rather than attributing fault to the pilot. Terrorism was not a factor in the crash, the FBI said in a statement.

The Associated Press reported that the office of San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault was conducting an autopsy to determine whether one of the victims survived the crash but was run over by an emergency vehicle. Dr. Foucrault said his staff was notified of the possibility Saturday by fire department officials at the crash site.

San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and Assistant Deputy Chief Dale Carnes both said earlier Monday that one of the two teenage girls killed in the crash might have been struck.

“There was a possibility one of two fatalities might have been contacted by one of our apparatus at one point during the incident,” Chief Carnes said.

The flight originated in Shanghai, China, and stopped in Seoul before crossing the Pacific. It had 307 people on board, including 16 crew members. At least 181 victims were transported to local hospitals; of those, 49 were said to be seriously injured.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.