First responders today gave their accounts of the chaotic scene they encountered when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday.
Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said the scene was “not something many people would see in their careers.”
She said investigators are still looking into the possibility that one of the two 16-year-old girls who died was struck by an emergency vehicle.
However, Hayes-White lauded the bravery of her firefighters, many of whom went onto the burning Boeing 777 to rescue passengers.
Lt. Crissy Emmons was one of those firefighters and said she knew the incident was serious from the moment she got the call from a dispatcher.
“I knew from her voice that the event we were going to was real,” Emmons said.
She said her adrenaline was flowing as she arrived at smoldering wreckage and followed another firefighter into the plane, climbing up the emergency chute to reach the fuselage.
Emmons and another firefighter headed to the right toward the back of the plane while a colleague went toward the cockpit, she said.
There was smoke inside the body of the plane, but mostly toward the cockpit and the air was clearer toward the rear of the aircraft, Emmons said.
“Most of the fire was in the front of the plane,” she said.
Emmons said there were several passengers in the back, including an elderly person and someone who was caught between the seats.
As the passengers were assisted off the plane—including some through the back, where the tail had broken off—the fire intensified, Emmons said.
“Conditions inside the plane were changing very rapidly,” she said.
Afterward, she said, she felt satisfied the rescuers had not missed any victims.
“By the time we removed everyone, heavy smoke was banking down on us,” she said. “I feel lucky and blessed that we were able to get people out in time.”
San Francisco fire Lt. Dave Monteverdi described getting an initial radio call about an “Alert 3 plane crash.”
“That’s all we heard,” he said.
He and fellow firefighters immediately rushed to the crash site.
“All you could see across the airfield was just dark smoke billowing up to the sky, and you could see a plane was on its belly,” Monteverdi said.
Monteverdi got onto the burning plane with Emmons and their colleagues, and as they headed toward the tail, he went toward the cockpit, which was filled with dark smoke.
He used a flashlight to check for victims and said he didn’t see anybody.
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr called emergency responders’ performance “nothing short of incredible.”
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News