Asiana crash investigation continues as victims' families arrive

Several international passengers who were aboard an Asiana Airlines flight that crashed in San Francisco are on their way home, airlines officials said Monday.

Two Koreans flew home Sunday, four are expected to leave Monday and four more on Wednesday, according to a Monday update from Asiana Airlines. The company said it is also flying in from Shanghai a dozen relatives of Chinese passengers and six Chinese government officials.

Meanwhile, officials from the National Transportation Safety Board continue to investigate the cause of Saturday morning’s crash, in which two girls died and hundreds of other passengers were injured. The agency scheduled a news conference for 11:30 a.m.

The most serious, life-threatening injuries were spinal fractures that caused paralysis, abdominal injuries and head trauma, said San Francisco General Hospital’s chief of surgery, Dr. Margaret Knudson. Others suffered sternum fractures, caused when the seats in front of them collapsed.

Most of the 53 patients treated at San Francisco General had been sitting near the back of the plane. Two of those in critical condition had "road rash" all over their bodies, Knudson said, suggesting they may have been dragged along the pavement.

Stanford hospital treated 55 patients from the crash, 11 of whom were admitted. Two remained in critical condition. Seven others were admitted to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford; all were listed in good condition.

Local hotels are offering discounts for people affected by the crash, the San Francisco Travel Assn. announced.

The association said visitors whose flights were delayed or cancelled because of the crash, or relatives of those aboard Asiana Airlines Flight 214, can get rooms in some downtown San Francisco hotels for as little as $200 a night through Thursday.

According to recordings on the plane’s flight recorder, a crew member requested to abort the plane’s landing and go around for another pass less than two seconds before it crashed at San Francisco International Airport.

Asked at a Sunday news conference about the role of pilot error in the crash, Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the NTSB, stressed that the investigation into Saturday’s tragedy would probably take more than a year and that “everything is on the table right now. It is too early to rule anything out.”

The pilot of Asiana Flight 214 had only 43 hours of experience flying the Boeing 777 aircraft, a spokeswoman for South Korea-based Asiana said Sunday. Lee Kang-kook, born in 1967, was in training on the 777 when the crash occurred, she added.

The spokeswoman, Lee Hyo-min, told the Los Angeles Times that the pilot had been flying since 1994 and was a “very experienced pilot” in other types of planes, including Boeing 747s, 737s and Airbus 320s.

Hersman said Flight 214 made no distress calls and appeared to be operating smoothly moments before it slowed to a near-stall, crashed into a sea wall near the runway and broke apart.

“There is no discussion of any aircraft anomalies or concern with the approach,” Hersman said.


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