Friends and relatives of Chinese passengers onboard the South Korean-owned passenger jet that crashed at San Francisco airport killing two and injuring 182 were anxiously waiting on Sunday for news of their loved ones.
State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) said Sunday evening that the two victims were students from Jiangshan Middle School in China's eastern Zhejiang province. It cited a fax from Asiana Airlines, which operated the plane that crashed, to the Jiangshan city government. The two students were identified as Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia.
Chinese nationals made up 141 of the 291 passengers aboard the Asiana Airlines Boeing 777, which burst into flames after it landed short of the runway.
Among them were 70 students and several teachers, the Xinhua state news agency said, with CCTV saying just one among them was unaccounted for.
The friend of one student said she was waiting at San Francisco airport, frantically phoning people in China to find out details.
“My best friend is on the plane. I’ve been at the airport all day, trying to contact my friends in China to get updates on the accident,” she said over the Chinese microblog service Sina Weibo.
“I was really scared and am still trying to recover,” she said. “You just never know when planes will have a problem.”
Xu Da, a Chinese passenger on board the plane – which originated in Shanghai and picked up passengers in South Korea before heading to the United States – described the dramatic incident to CCTV.
“I noticed the plane was flying quite low when landing, and as it was just about to land the plane suddenly accelerated and the nose started to rise,” he said. “But at the time the plane was flying extremely low already.”
He added: “I felt a shock. The oxygen masks fell down and a bad smell began to spread throughout the plane. I could also see sparks in the front part of the plane.”
Once the plane landed, the cabin was a “mess”, the back of the plane had a large hole and the kitchen there had disappeared, he described on Weibo .
A student survivor surnamed Lin was quoted as saying that the plane went dark and foam started to flood into where the passengers were seated.
“There was dust everywhere and it was very dark. The air smelled horrible. Foam was gushing in and outside the jet,” he told the microblog service Tencent Weibo in an online interview.
“To be honest the first thing I thought about was to look for my glasses.”
After the landing, Xu and his wife collected their luggage and rushed out the makeshift exit at the back.
Xu posted photos showing people waiting outside while thick black smoke billowed from the plane, and then later from inside the airport, though the images could not be verified.
“I feel very fortunate,” he wrote a little later, before posting another photo from a car leaving the scene.
Other travellers were left waiting for their flights as the airport shut down immediately after the incident before reopening a few runways.
A Chinese pilot surnamed Wang who was waiting to fly to Hong Kong told the official China News Service he was still trying to reach his friend on board.
“I haven’t got in touch with him yet,” he was quoted as saying.
CCTV urged survivors and their loved ones to post information on the online messaging system WeChat so they could find one another.