A Boeing 777 airliner crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport this morning. Its tail came off while it touched down on the runway, MSNBC reported.
According to at least one witness, Kathy Muhler, at about 11:20 a.m. the plane was just about to land. Its landing gear had been deployed when the tail of the plane came off.
According to CNN, the plane then wobbled for a about one minute, and then the aircraft flipped upside down, coming to a stop on the runway upside down.
When the plane finally stopped, smoke was seen pouring from the aircraft. Fire crews responded minutes later, Muhler said.
The plane, reportedly a Boeing 777, was identified as Asiana Flight No. 214 and was making its final approach from South Korea, according to NBC News.
A reporter for local news station KCBS described "a tremendous amount of black smoke on the runway," initially. That reporter later described the plane as completely engulfed in smoke: “It’s more gray smoke at this point.” He also said that the plane was a cargo jet rather than a passenger jet, and it was too early to confirm casualties.
People, including crew members, were seen exiting the plane, according to MSN News.
No information is as yet available as to injuries or deaths, nor exactly how many people were on board.
The Boeing 777 is a relatively new aircraft and can carry up to 450 passengers, depending on the seating configuration.
More details will follow as they become available.
UPDATE: MSNBC is reporting that at least 291 people were aboard this plane. Still no casualty reports, however. It appears, at this writing, that most of the people aboard escaped the burning plane.
UPDATE: By now (late evening, Saturday, July 6), and since thiis crash occurred, there have been several press conferences and interviews with emergency personnel, airline officials, city officials, including the Mayor of San Francisco, witnesses on the ground and others who were onboard nearby planes, and a number of actual survivors of this unfortunate event.
According to MSNBC's "wall-to-wall" coverage, there were, in fact, 291 passengers and 16 crewmembers aboard Flight 214 from Seoul, South Korea when it crash landed at San Francisco International Airport.
The passengers included Chinese citizens, Koreans, Americans, and one Japanese. In his latest press conference Mayor Lee of San Francisco has confirmed that all 307 passengers and crew have been accounted for.
Amazingly, only two people were killed. The two fatalities have been identified as two 16-year-old Chinese "middle school" girls. However, another 182 of people suffered injuries -- from minor to life-threatening.
ABC News reports that the plane itself was only seven years old.
That so many people -- all but two -- survived this crash is nothing short of miraculous.
Then again, perhaps not.
Asiana Airlines has one of the best safety records in the industry. The Boeing 777, likewise, has a similarly outstanding safety record. In fact, this is the first 777 crash in the US which has suffered fatalities since these planes were first built in 1988.
Indeed, this plane was constructed and its crew had been specifically and thoroughly trained to survive just such a crash. For example, fire-resistant materials were used in the construction of just about every part and component of the passenger cabin. This model of airplane was not allowed into service until it passed a series of stringent, strict safety tests, one of which was the removal of all passengers and crew within 90 seconds after a crash.
As a testament to the 777's state-of-the-art engineering and its crew's enhanced training regimen, once this plane finally came to a stop, although there was smoke, the fire did not ignite for three to four minutes. By then, everyone had been evacuated from the stricken plane.
Thus, whether those survivors should thank providence or airline and airplane officials and engineers, is up to them. In any event, as Mayor Lee said at his most recent press conference, this crash could have been much, much worse.