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Airliner crash at San Francisco, two killed, one missing

An Asiana Airlines flight from Seoul has crash landed at San Francisco International Airport. Local officials say many of the 307 occupants escaped, some injured. Two people were killed and one remains missing.

San Francisco International Airport management said two people were killed on Saturday when an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777-200 crash landed. On board had been 307 people, including 16 crew members.

Asiana flight 214 crashed while landing at around 11.30 a.m. local time. Video footage showed passengers sliding down emergency chutes from at least two exits.

Airport spokesman Doug Yakel said 123 people were evacuated to the terminal. The number transported to local hospitals was 181.

San Francisco's General Hospital said it was treating 10 people in critical condition, including two children.

Asiana Airlines CEO Yoon Young-Doo later told reporters at a press conference on Sunday that the casualties had been two Chinese teenage girls seated at the back of the plane.

Crash while landing

While Asiana Airlines has not yet been able to determine what caused the fatal accident, it has ruled out a mechanical error based on the current information about the plane.

"For now, we acknowledge that there were no problems caused by the 777-200 plane or [its] engines," Yoon Young-Doo said.

"We purchased this airplane in March 2006...currently we understand that there are no engine or mechnical problems," he added.

Images suggested that the aircraft struck a rocky area at the water's edge, short of the runway. The 777's tail was ripped off.

Video footage showed the jet on its belly surrounded by firefighters with debris scattered along its landing path. The top of 777's rear fuselage was burned away. One engine appeared to have broken off.

Attendants 'flung out'

Survivor Eliot Stone told the news channel CNN that flight attendants were flung out the back as the tail broke away.

"And then it [the aircraft] just kind of drifts for a little bit, for a good 300 yards and then tips over. Fire starts," Stone said.

Witnesses on the ground said the plane went into a flat spin as it came to rest while emitting smoke.

Numerous flights to San Francisco were diverted to other airports, including Los Angeles.

Asiana in a statement said among those on board were 77 Koreans, 141 Chinese, 61 US citizens, and one Japanese national.

Asiana is a South Korean airline, second in size to national carrier Korean Air.

Long-range airliner

Boeing's 777-2000 is a long-range, twin-engine plane widely used on the world's long-distance routes for flights of 12 hours or more.

Aviation experts quoted by Associated Press (AP) said Saturday's crash was only the second major accident for the 777-200 in 18 years of service.

The previous accident occurred in 2008 at London's Heathrow Airport, when a British Airways 777 landed hard short of the runway. It then slid onto the runway, causing injuries but not fatalities.

The US National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to probe the San Francisco crash. Boeing said it would provide technical assistance.

An Arizona-based expert, Bill Waldock, who heads an accident investigation laboratory, told AP that the Asiana 777 "appeared to go low on approach."

"And then the airplane pitched up suddenly to an extreme altitude, when could have been the pilots trying to keep it out of the ground," said Waldock.

ipj/jm (AP, Reuters, AFP)