Some of the passengers onboard Asiana Flight 214 ignored basic safety protocols and took their luggage with them as the exited the wrecked 777 jet.
Even more shocking is that some passengers who had reached safety went back to get their stuff while the plane was still on fire, police officer Jim Cunningham said at a press conference on Monday.
"Some people were coming back, trying to get their luggage," he said. "We were trying to tell people that when there's damage like this to an airplane, this thing could go up in a couple minutes, in a ball of flames."
Cunningham said that after he got off the plane (which he had entered with no protective equipment), he tried to get those who had exited the plane to clear the area, as the dry grass around the wreckage could have caught fire.
Several other emergency responders speaking at the press conference also said they knew the fire could get much worse at any moment. Once the plane was clear of passengers, they hurried out. "The fire was banking down on us, with heavy black smoke," said Lt. Chrissie Emmons of the San Francisco Fire Department.
That some passengers took the time to find their luggage, and that others even returned for their bags, is surprising given that one way to survive a plane crash (and a common refrain on safety cards) is to get off the plane quickly, without any of your stuff.
Airlines must certify that they can get passengers off a plane in 90 seconds in an emergency, and a key way to do that is to convince passengers to leave their bags behind. MIT aerospace engineer John Hansman told USA Today . "If people had dawdled getting off this airplane, that would have put them at increased risk," he said.
But Jang Hyung Lee, who was flying on Asiana Flight 214 with his wife and baby son, told the New York Times, “It wasn’t really chaos; people actually took their hand carriers."
Another passenger, Xu Da, wrote on his Weibo page that he and his wife grabbed their belongings before exiting the 777 through a hole in the rear, according to the Times.
A photo from passenger David Eun, a Samsung exec who tweeted about the crash, shows some of his fellow travelers walking away from the carnage with their bags.
— David Eun (@Eunner) July 6, 2013
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