A story about the Asiana Airlines plane crash incorrectly reported that 17-year-old Jeong Han Kim of Korea had survived the crash, based on an interview with Kim. Officials from the Korean Consulate in San Francisco said Monday that Kim had been in the United States since March and was not a passenger on Asiana Flight 214. Kim's passport was either lost or stolen, an official said, forcing him to seek help Sunday afternoon at the consulate offices, where he was interviewed by this newspaper. In addition, the story also listed Kim's name incorrectly.
SAN FRANCISCO -- The 13-year-old girl gripped the edges of her seat as tightly as she could when the plane crashed hard on the runway. The emergency door behind her business class seat caved in and crushed the bathroom as the plane bounced and tipped. Luggage fell down and books and magazines in the laps of the passengers flew up. Omelets and cinnamon buns from the kitchen shot through the air and rolled down the aisles. Her cherished iPod flew out of her seat.
"I hear people screaming and crying and I heard a lady say, 'Where's my baby?" said the San Carlos teenager, who was sitting next to her mother Saturday morning on Asiana Airlines Flight 214 from Seoul, where she was visiting relatives. "I was really scared, freaked out and I was wondering if I was going to die. I thought it was going to blow before anyone gets out."
Of 307 people aboard, two Chinese girls at the back of the Boeing 777 -- just three years older than she is and on their way to a church summer camp -- didn't get out alive. One was ejected from the back of the plane, one possibly run over by a rescue vehicle. The horrifying deaths occurred in the midst of chaos and panic, fire and smoke. A day after the stunning crash landing, news images of the plane's hulking carcass with gaping holes down the spine, blackened, incinerated seats inside, still raise the question: How did anyone survive at all?
Some passengers pushed their way to emergency doors.
"I don't want to discount that lives were lost, that people were critically injured," San Francisco fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said during a news conference Sunday. "But it is nothing short of a miracle that we had literally 123 people walk away from this."
Another 182 were taken to hospitals, including dozens with serious injuries. On Sunday, 19 remained hospitalized, six in critical condition, with two of those children, she said. Many had broken bones and burns.
Chairs buckled, spines snapped and a number of passengers from the back of the plane suffered what appeared to be road rash, a condition doctors found hard to explain. When rescuers arrived, they saw some passengers emerge from the water, speculating they might have been dousing themselves.
Many passengers were young, including a group of 70 Chinese students and teachers heading to summer camps, according to authorities in China.
Shi Da, 39, a project manager with a China-based Internet company, and his wife and teenage son were some of the lucky ones. They were near the back of the plane when the tail hit the sea wall. Oxygen masks dropped down.
"I saw some sparkle shining in front of me," Da told The Associated Press. "When I stood up, I saw the tail. There was a big hole and I could see through the hole to the ground. There was a lot of dust in the cabin. I grabbed my bag and rushed out through the tail, through the hole."
Wen Zhang also exited with her family through a hole, this one in the side of the plane, she said, just big enough for two people to squeeze through at a time. She was bruised, her husband's neck was injured and little Xu Qixuan had broken his left leg when the seat in front of him lurched backward.
"We are lucky because we survived," she said of her family.
Eugene Anthony Rah also feels lucky. A music producer, Rah had made the trip countless times. This time, "I just knew we were too low."
"I was holding the chair so hard, just waiting for the crash," he told ABC News.
In the midst of the chaos, he saw a "a tiny girl, a flight attendant."
"She was crying, tears all over, but she was helping, carrying a big man twice as big as her, trying to get him out of the plane," he said. "It was amazing."
After the plane came to rest and the debris that had been flying around the fuselage settled, the 13-year-old San Carlos girl, whose mother didn't want her name used, knew she had to get out fast "because in most movies, it's always on fire right when it lands."
Still, she didn't want to leave without her iPod.
Somehow, in the chaos, she had seen it land and slide under her seat. But her mother was waiting at the emergency door.
"My mom was yelling at me to get out," said the girl. "All you had to do was lift the seat a little bit, the cushions. I was doing that.
"If I lose it, I can't get another one."
She didn't know the girls had died at the back of the plane.
Staff writers Erin Ivie and Heather Somerville contributed to this report.
Contact Julia Prodis Sulek at 408-278-3409. Follow her at twitter.com/juliasulek.