Passengers aboard the stricken Asiana Flight 214 ‘grabbed their luggage before their children’, as footage showing the moment they scrambled to safety emerged.

Photos of passengers fleeing the Boeing 777  – moments before it erupted into flames – show that several managed to grab their bags, even heavy roll-aboard suitcases, before escaping.

Passenger Xu Da said he first grabbed his luggage, then he scooped up his young child and fled the burning plane with his wife.

The instinct of many of the passengers to find their luggage before their children and fleeing for their lives has baffled airline safety experts and drawn criticism on social media.


Passengers aboard the stricken Asiana Flight 214 'grabbed their luggage before their children' it has today been revealed, as video footage showing the dramatic moment they scrambled to safety has emerged Passengers aboard the stricken Asiana Flight 214 ‘grabbed their luggage before their children’ it has today been revealed, as video footage showing the dramatic moment they scrambled to safety has emerged.

But the passengers have claimed that in the chaos of the crash, they could only think to calmly take their belongings with them, as if they were exiting the plane as normal.

Xu Da, a production manager for a Chinese shopping website, wrote on the Chinese blogging site Sina Weibo that he stood and grabbed his carry-on bags before leaving the plane, according to the New York Times.

He said he smelled smoke and saw the flames, but he and his wife maintained an eery sense of calm.

‘I grabbed my bags as soon as it stopped,’ he wrote. 

‘My wife was very calm – she even picked up the scattered stuff on the ground.’

Mr Xu and his wife grabbed their child and walked out the gaping hole in the back of the plane where the tail section had been before it was ripped off during the crash-landing.

Pictures that passenger Eugene Anthony Rah took on his iPhone show numerous passengers fleeing the plane with their luggage.


John Goglia, an airline safety expert and former member of the National Transportation Safety Board, told Forbes that he was shocked to see a number of the passengers with suitcases.

He said he shuddered to think how much extra time it took for them to retrieve their luggage and added: ‘Of all the aircraft accidents I have investigated or am familiar with, this is the first where it appears significant numbers of people took their belongings with them in escaping.’

‘Certainly now that airlines and the FAA are clearly on notice that survivable accidents could be imperiled by passengers wasting time collecting their bags, they need to take action to address this issue before anyone needlessly dies in a survivable accident.’

Mr Xu has since defended his actions on social media.

‘The three of us were sitting in the same row and the luggage compartment was just overhead,’ he wrote, according to the Wall Street Journal.

‘We didn’t block the aisle. Our passports and money were in the bags. If we didn’t grab them, we would have been in trouble…’


Captured just four seconds after the aircraft’s tail section hit a seawall after the pilots apparently misjudged their landing, the video shows emergency crews arriving at speed to the burning wreck as fuel gushed from a crumpled wing on one side of the airplane.

The video footage shows people flooding down the plane’s emergency slides and out through the gaping hole where the aircraft’s tail section used to be.

Hundreds of the planes 307 passengers and crew are seen to put as much distance between themselves and the fiery hulk – not knowing if the plane will explode at any second.

Under-Way: More people seen from a distance rush to safety from the aircraft - some can be seen to the right exiting the gaping hole where the tail section used to be

Under-Way: More people seen from a distance rush to safety from the aircraft – some can be seen to the right exiting the gaping hole where the tail section used to be.

Filmed across the water from San Francisco airport’s runway, the video shows the first 15-minutes or so after Flight 214’s crash landing, the fleeing passengers dash away from the smash until firetrucks arrive to douse the flames and leave the plane a smouldering wreck.

The plane had smashed just short of the runway, severing its tail, exploding into a fireball and skidding to a halt at San Francisco International Airport around 11.40am PCT on Saturday.

In the chaos of the crash-landing, dozens of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances rushed to the scene to help recuse the jetliner’s 307 passengers and crew and battle the blaze that broke out on board.

And as stories have begun to emerge revealing the astounding bravery in the aftermath of the deadly Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash – many survivors of Saturday’s plane crash in San Francisco have a surprising pattern of spine injuries that a doctor says shows how violently they were shaken despite wearing seat belts.

So far, two people are unable to move their legs – doctors don’t yet know if the damage is permanent – and several others have needed surgery to stabilize their spines so they can move, said Dr. Geoffrey Manley, neurosurgery chief at San Francisco General Hospital who is overseeing their care.

Among the worst injuries are crushed vertebrae that compress the spinal cord, and ligaments so stretched and torn that they can’t hold neck and back joints in place, Manley said in an interview Monday.

That 305 of the 307 passengers and crew of the Asiana jet survived the crash is remarkable, and a testimony to improvements in airline safety in recent years. More than 180 people went to hospitals with injuries, but only a small number were critically injured.

Still, Manley said even among those who suffered mild spine trauma, he is struck by a pattern that shows how their upper bodies were flung forward and then backward over the lap belts that kept them in their seats and undoubtedly saved their lives.

The injuries are somewhat reminiscent of the days before shoulder belts in cars, although much more severe, said Dr. David Okonkwo of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who isn’t involved with the survivors’ care.

Does that mean shoulder belts in airplanes would prevent such injuries? Okonkwo said that’s simplistic considering how much more speed and force are involved in a plane crash. Shoulder belts might just transfer that force to the neck, he cautioned.

‘If you put in the shoulder belt, it might just move the injuries up further. Your head weighs a tremendous amount,’ agreed San Francisco’s Manley. He hopes to study the issue, comparing survivors’ injuries to where they sat.

The airline industry says adding three-point seatbelts to airplanes would require major changes to seat design that would mean higher airfares and less comfort.

Some business class seats have added a type of shoulder restraint, but those seats are more like beds and often don’t face forward.

Meanwhile, Okonkwo said assuming the “crash position” – leaning forward with the head as far down as possible and arms over it – can limit the spine jolting back and forth and offer some protection. It’s not clear if any survivors of Saturday’s crash had time to do so.

In the terrifying aftermath of the crash passengers have recounted how female flight attendants carried people on their backs from the wreckage just moments before flames engulfed the plane, while a police officer wearing no protective gear raced into the burning jet to pull out passengers and free others from their seats.

The stories of amazing courage emerged two days after the flight crash landed at San Francisco Airport, killing two Chinese schoolgirls and injuring 182 other passengers. Newly-released images taken moments after show people scrambling for safety from the smouldering wreckage.

One passenger, Eugene Anthony Rah, recalled how Asiana Airlines air hostess Kim Ji-yeon stood out to him as she was only slight but ‘carrying people piggyback’ from the plane if they were unable to walk.

Rah, who captured the dramatic images of smoke billowing from the plane minutes after it skidded to a standstill, said the flight attendant was sobbing as she helped clear the plane minutes before flames took over. He said he noted down her name because ‘she was a hero’.

As flight attendants huddled with the passengers on the tarmac and were treated by medical staff, first responders – 24 firefighters from airport, 110 from San Francisco, 84 from San Matteo County and around 50 police officers – swarmed the scene.

Police officer Jim Cunningham was commended by his fellow first responders for showing ‘an unbelievable presence of mind’ amid the extreme situation.

After arriving at the chaotic scene he paid no attention to his own safety and instead focused on checking every passenger was out of the plane, fearing the fire could take over, he told reporters at a press conference on Monday morning.

As fuel gushed from a crumpled wing of the plane, Cunningham entered the aircraft and immediately got to work, noticing that the firefighters seemed ‘overwhelmed’, he said.

‘The overhead luggage had fallen down and blocked the exit,’ he remembered. ‘I was grabbing pieces of luggage, doing whatever I could to get inside. I started trying to get people out of their seats – some people were scared to move.’

Responders noticed there were several people still inside the plane – an elderly man and two people who were trapped between seats, among others – and battled to get them free before smoke took over.

Safety: Passengers walk hand-in-hand after using emergency exit slides to leave the destroyed plane on Saturday just before noon

Safety: Passengers walk hand-in-hand after using emergency exit slides to leave the destroyed plane on Saturday just before noon

Cunningham said he took leads from the firefighters and helped them put victims onto backboards to be carried from the rear of the plane. As he powered on, smoke swirled around him.

‘I started coughing,’ he said.We saw a plume of smoke coming at us. It was like something out of a nightmare… I didn’t think about it. I just knew those people were in there. I thought I was a tough guy and just held my breath.’

As he ran through the plane, checking to see if anyone else was trapped, he came across an iPhone.

‘I looked at it and there was a mother and daughter picture on the cover and I think, “Someone’s going to want this”,’ he said, adding that he put the phone in his back pocket. ‘I found another one and clicked it one and it was one of the flights attendants. I thought, “This is important, all of the past memories they have in this”.’

He took the gadget and later gave it to Asiana Airlines, who passed it to the flight attendant, he said.

As Cunningham left the plane, he was confident that the aircraft had no passengers inside, but then he heard that there were between 40 and 50 people still missing, he said. 

‘I almost started crying because I thought I screwed up and people had got killed,’ he said at the press conference. ‘I ran through [the plane again] and made sure everyone was safe. I second guessed myself to take a look again. I just hoped no one was in there.’

Lt Gaetano Caltagirone was with Cunningham went he watched him head back to the smouldering plane. ‘I can’t see him but he comes out shouting, “They’re all out! They’re all out!”‘ he said. ‘It was amazing. It’s all in the heart.’

He added: ‘There was so much chaos going on but it was quiet and everybody was doing what they were trained to do – to save lives and way beyond. I was very proud to see my officers out there, not worrying about themselves.’

Fire chief Hayes-White added that her firefighters have training and protective equipment that Officer Cunningham did not.

‘He joined in, recognizing we needed someone else,’ she said. ‘For that I’m truly impressed.’

But Cunningham refused to be called a hero, explaining: ‘I was just doing my job.’

In other stories of heroism, cabin manager Lee Yoon-hye explained that the emergency slides initially caught two crew members beneath them when they were set off. Other crew members deflated the slides with axes to rescue their colleagues, one of whom seemed to be choking beneath the weight.

She described how one flight attendant put a scared elementary schoolboy on her back and slid down a slide, while a pilot helped another injured flight attendant off the plane after the passengers escaped.

Lee, 40, who has nearly 20 years’ experience with Asiana, worked to put out fires and usher passengers to safety despite a broken tailbone. She said she didn’t know how badly she was hurt until a doctor at a San Francisco hospital later treated her.

‘Right before touchdown, I felt like the plane was trying to take off,’ she said at a press conference. ‘I was thinking, “What’s happening?” and then I felt a bang. That bang felt harder than a normal landing. It was a very big shock.

‘Afterward, there was another shock and the plane swayed to the right and to the left. I wasn’t really thinking, but my body started carrying out the steps needed for an evacuation. I was only thinking about rescuing the next passenger.’

She said that when she saw the plane burning after the crash, she stayed calm and ‘didn’t have time to feel that this fire was going to hurt me’.

San Francisco fire chief, Joanne Hayes-White, praised Lee, whom she talked to just after the evacuation. ‘She was so composed I thought she had come from the terminal,’ Hayes-White told reporters. ‘She wanted to make sure that everyone was off…. She was a hero.’

Amid this chaos, it is possible that an emergency responder vehicle hit and killed one of teenagers who died in the wreckage, authorities revealed. Two 16-year-old Chinese schoolgirls, Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, died in the crash but officials said one was possibly hit by a fire truck or an ambulance.

San Francisco’s medical examiner is now conducting an autopsy to determine whether she was dead before she was struck.

‘One of the deceased did have injuries consistent with those of having been run over by a vehicle,’ fire department spokeswomen Mindy Talmadge said. ‘Many agencies were on the field.’

Miraculously, 305 other passenger on the plane survived the crash, with 123 walking away completely physically unscathed.

Images from inside the stricken Asiana Airlines Flight 214 have also been released by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. They show seats slammed out of their rivets and oxygen masks dangling from the overhead compartments, giving some indication of the terror that the 307 passengers and crew experienced during the plane’s botched landing.

The pilot of the plane, Lee-Kang Kook, was on his maiden training flight and had only 43 hours experience at the controls of a Boeing 777.

‘He was training,’ a spokeswoman for Asiana Airlines, Lee Hyomin, said. ‘Even a veteran gets training. He has a lot of experience and previously had flown to San Francisco on different planes, including the B747 … and was assisted by another pilot who has more experience with the 777.’

The black box on the Boeing 777 jetliner detailed three crucial moments – beginning 7 seconds before impact – that show the plane was approaching the runway too slowly and that the pilots were trying to correct the problem. As they attempted a surge in speed, the tail of the plane hit the ground.

National Transportation Safety Board officials said on Sunday that the jetliner, which was carrying 291 passengers, was flying ‘significantly’ slower than the 137 knots that is ideal for jetliners preparing to land in San Francisco.