Federal investigators say there was a delay in getting passengers out of the Asiana jetliner that crashed Saturday at San Francisco International Airport because passengers initially were told to stay in their seats.
In one of two significant new revelations about the crash, National Transportation Safety Board chair Deborah Hersman said Wednesday after the Boeing 777 skidded to a halt during the crash landing, a flight attendant was told by the pilots not to begin to evacuate the plane:
“The flight crew told the flight attendant not to initiate an evacuation. They were communicating with the tower about the emergency.”
The order from the flight deck prompted an announcement by one of the flight attendants to passengers for everyone to stay put:
“The lead flight attendant, or cabin manager, made an announcement over the P.A. for people to stay in their seats and not evacuate.”
Hersman says it wasn’t until a senior flight attendant sitting towards the rear of the plane — one of 12 flight attendants on board — saw smoke and fire outside the aircraft that the evacuation began:
“A minute-and-a-half after it came to at stop, the doors were opened and the slides were deployed.”
As the flight attendants worked on getting people off the plane, Hersman says they also battled the spreading fire.
NTSB has interviewed six of the flight attendants so far. Six others remain hospitalized and are yet to be interviewed.
Two flight attendants were hurt when they were thrown from the plane, while a third flight attendant was hurt when she was what Hersman described as “ejected,” but was found inside the plane.
Other injuries were caused when at least two of the inflatable chutes deployed inside the plane. Investigators had not determined why they inflated inside the aircraft.
In another key revelation from Wednesday’s press briefing Hersman said the pilot flying the plane — identified as Lee Kang-Kuk — reported seeing a bright flash of light as the jetliner approached the airport.
The source of light has not been identified, and it had not been determined, what impact, any it had on his ability to land the plane.
Two people were hurt and dozens others injured in the crash.
Hersman has said investigators would not determine while she and the NTSB was “on scene” as to what caused the crash.