Flight 214 Crash: Where Will the Liability Fall?

A Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA) 777 used by Asiana Airlines Inc. crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport after a flight from Seoul, killing two. Passengers were forced to escape the flight down emergency slides as the airplane caught fire.

The 777 is one of the most popular long-haul jetliners because of its fuel efficiency using a twin-engine model along with its ability to transport over 300 people. Flight 214 had 291 passengers and 15 crew members. Of them, 181 were taken to hospitals and five of the victims were in critical condition at San Francisco General Hospital. The passengers included 77 South Koreans, 141 Chinese, 61 Americans, and one Japanese person.

Witnesses say the tail hit the ground first, breaking off, and then the jet spun out of control. John Cox, a Washington-based aviation safety consultant, says that it seems as though the 777 was coming in short of the runway. “It’s not a little bit short,” he said. “It’s a lot short.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is sending in a team to study the accident, which is the most serious in the U.S. since a turboprop plane flown by Pinnacle Airlines Corp.’s former Colgan unit killed 50 passengers in 2009. The NTSB will painstakingly study the debris field, labeling debris parts and where they were found relative to the crash. They will also study impact areas and see what they might say about how the crash occurred. Given the nature of the crash, it also seems likely that the flight recorders will be recoverable.

According to FlightAware.com, an industry data compiler, weather doesn’t seem to have been the culprit for the crash — the conditions present wouldn’t have had an effect on a 777 under normal conditions.

Of the 291 passengers on board the flight, at least one was high profile — Samsung Electronics Co.’s Executive Vice President David Eun. On his Twitter feed, he wrote, “Just crash landed at SFO. Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I’m ok. Surreal.” Later he said, “Fire and rescue people all over the place They’re evacuating the injured. Haven’t felt this way since 9/11.”

Editor’s Note: The title has been changed to reflect the fact that investigation is continuing in the case and the reason for the crash has still not been established. 

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