(CNN) -- Two people died after a Boeing 777 from South Korea crashed Saturday upon landing at San Francisco's airport, sending up a huge fireball, shedding its tail and spinning before screeching to a stop.
Asiana Airlines Flight 214 left Seoul's Incheon International Airport earlier Saturday, according to FlightAware, a website that offers tracking services for private and commercial air traffic. An airline spokesman in Seoul told CNN that 291 passengers and 16 staff members were aboard when it crashed around 11:30 a.m. (2:30 p.m. ET).
San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said around 4:10 p.m that two had died -- adding later that they were found outside the plane. One of two killed is a Chinese passport holder, a South Korean official said at a news briefing. It is not yet known what nationality the other person was, said Lee Jung-Kwan, an official at the South Korean foreign ministry.
Hayes-White said earlier Saturday that more than 60 people were unaccounted for. But around 7:45 p.m. Saturday, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said that everyone had been accounted for.
'I just crash landed at SFO. I'm ok. Surreal'
Local hospitals have treated 182 passengers and crew, officials said, 49 of whom were in what Carnes earlier described as "serious" condition. Another 123 people now in the airport terminals were "uninjured," he said.
Nine Bay Area hospitals are treating patients, Hayes-White had said.
Fifty-two of them are at San Francisco General Hospital, including five patients in critical condition, hospital spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said. Another 45 have been treated at a Stanford University hospital, some of them suffering from "life-threatening injuries," said Dr. David Spain, the chief of trauma.
Air traffic control audio -- between the airport's tower and Flight 214 crew members -- suggested that those on the ground knew there was some sort of problem, promising that "emergency vehicles are responding."
"We have everyone on their way," the air traffic controller said, according to LiveATC.net, a website that provides air traffic control audio.
One of those on the flight, Elliott Stone, told CNN that he thought the plane was approaching "a little high (then came) down a little sharp.
"All of a sudden, boom, the back end just hit and flies up into the air and everyone's head goes up the ceiling," said Stone, who added that he ended up jumping out the plane without using the stairs or an evacuation slide.
Anthony Castorani, who witnessed the landing from a nearby hotel, said the plane touch the ground then noticed a large plume of smoke.
"You heard a pop and you immediately saw a large, brief fireball that came from underneath the aircraft," he told CNN.
'Large, brief fireball' as plane landed
Kristina Stapchuck saw the dramatic scene unfold from her seat on a plane on the airport tarmac. Soon after Flight 214 touched down, "it looked like the tires slipped a little bit and it rocked back," she told CNN.
Parts of the plane began to break off as it rocked and then began to spin.
"It all happened so suddenly," Stapchuck told CNN.
Rah's father knew something bad was coming, he told his daughter, telling her that the pilot appeared to try to raise the plane at the last minute. Rah said her father "is doing fine, thank God," but noted that others appeared to be hurt.
Said Rah: "It's heartbreaking."
Passengers run from plane, flames
Video taken soon after the crash and posted on YouTube showed dark gray smoke rising from the plane, which appeared to be upright. That smoke later became white, even as fire crews continued to douse the plane.
CNN iReporter Timothy Clark was on an eighth-floor balcony of a nearby hotel when he heard the noise and saw a "dust cloud."
"Then people running from the plane, then flames," Clark said.
A photograph posted to Twitter shows what appear to be passengers walking off the plane, some of them toting bags, as smoke rises from the other side. Hayes-White said many had already gotten off by the time first responders arrived.
"I just crash landed at SFO," read the accompanying message from David Eun. "Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I'm ok. Surreal ..."
The Boeing 777-200LR has been in service since March 2006
The plane can carry 301 passengers and travel a maximum distance of 9,395 nautical miles
Asiana Airlines operates 71 aircraft and serves 14.7 million passengers annually
The airline was voted Airline of the Year by Global Traveler in 2011
In 1993, Asiana Airlines Boeing 737 crashed killing 68 people
The top of the aircraft was charred and, in spots, gone entirely, according to video from CNN affiliate KTVU. The plane was on its belly, with no landing gear evident and the rear tail of the plane gone.
Debris settled from the water's edge, along San Francisco Bay, up to where the plane eventually came to a stop.
Fire trucks were on site; first responders could be seen walking outside the aircraft.
Evacuation slides could be seen extending from one side of the aircraft, from which there was no apparent smoke.
According to Asiana Airlines, 141 of the passengers who were aboard Flight 214 are Chinese, 77 are South Korean and 61 are American.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer and author of the book "Lean In," was supposed to be one of them, she wrote on her Facebook page. But she'd switched instead to a United flight, arriving about 20 minutes before the Asiana flight crashed.
Flights diverted to other airports
The Bay Area airport was closed to incoming and departing traffic after the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration said on its website, adding that the time when it's expected to reopen is unknown.
At one point flights destined for San Francisco's airport -- known by its call letters, SFO -- were diverted to airports in Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose and Los Angeles, said Zamora.
In an official tweet around 3:30 p.m., San Francisco International Airport said that two of its runways had reopened.
The airport, located 12 miles south of downtown San Francisco, is California's second busiest, behind LAX.
There were a few clouds in the sky around the time of the crash, and temperatures were about 65 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Winds were about 8 miles per hour.
Members of South Korea's Aviation and Railway Accident Investigation Board will travel to San Francisco, that agency said. They'll be joined by members of the United States' National Transportation Safety Board, which is sending a "go team" led by chairwoman Deborah Hersman to investigate the crash.
"We have not determined what the focus of this investigation is yet," Hersman said shortly before leaving Washington for San Francisco. "Everything is on the table at this point."
There are no signs of terrorism related to the crash, a national security official told CNN. President Barack Obama was at Camp David when he learned about the crash, a senior White House official said.
Asiana Airlines -- one of South Korea's two major airlines, the other being Korean Air -- is also investigating the cause of the crash, a company spokesman told CNN.
The airline received the plane involved in the incident in 2006, according to the Aviation Safety Network. The aircraft has two Pratt & Whitney engines, it said.
Flying to 23 other countries, the 25-year-old Asiana operates many of its flights out of Incheon International Airport, which is the largest airport in South Korea and considered among the busiest in the world.
According to information on Asiana Airlines' website, the company has 12 Boeing 777 planes. The airliners have a seating capacity of between 246 and 300 people and had a cruising speed of 555 mph (894 kph).
CNN's Mike M. Ahlers, Chelsea J. Carter, Rande Iaboni, K.J. Kwon, Kyung Lah, John King and Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report.
Automated flight controls in airline cockpits have become so reliable that safety experts say pilots could become inattentive to rare malfunctions that can lead to crashes.
Problems monitoring equipment have been cited for decades in crashes and could have played a role in two recent fatal crashes. Mechanical problems weren't immediately found as causes.
An Asiana Airlines passenger jet struck a seawall and crashed July 6 on the runway in San Francisco, killing three passengers. A United Parcel Service cargo jet crashed Aug. 14 short of the runway in Birmingham, Ala., killing both pilots.
Besides the stick-and-rudder skills of steering a plane, commercial pilots routinely set automated instruments that govern an airliner's direction, speed and altitude, then check throughout the flight to ensure the systems are performing as expected.
MORE: Pilots: Monitoring equipment tricky because it's boring
"We get lazy, we get complacent, we get tired," said Jack Panosian, a former Northwest pilot who teaches at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz. "What happens when we see something work correctly 99 times? What do we do on that 100th time? Are we monitoring it with the same level? The answer is no."
The National Transportation Safety Board has long noticed problems. A 1994 study of 37 crashes found that 31 involved inadequate monitoring. NTSB findings in several accidents since then:
•On July 26, 2002, a FedEx 727-200 approaching Tallahassee at night crashed and seriously injured three crewmembers who failed to monitor controls when landing lights warned that the plane was too low.
•On Nov. 22, 2004, a Gulfstream G-III sent to Houston to pick up former president George H.W. Bush for a trip to Ecuador crashed and killed three crewmembers after they failed to cross-check instruments during the approach.
•On Feb. 16, 2005, a Cessna Citation 560 crashed in Pueblo, Colo., killing eight people. Besides distractions during the approach, one cause was the pilot's "failure to effectively monitor" the equipment before stalling.
The board recommended after the crash in 2005 that the Federal Aviation Administration "require that all pilot training programs be modified to ... teach and emphasize monitoring skills."
That recommendation was repeated after a Colgan Air crash in Buffalo killed 50 people in 2009 and an American Airlines 757 overran a runway in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in 2010.
"This is really an area that is ripe for improving safety," said Robert Sumwalt, an NTSB member and a former 24-year airline pilot.
The FAA hopes to complete a rule in October for "improving pilot training and qualifications to reduce or eliminate the types of errors that caused the Colgan accident," the agency told USA TODAY in a statement.
Helena Reidemar, the Air Line Pilots Association's director of human factors, said pilots must remain as active in monitoring controls as in actually flying the plane.
"The brain is not wired to reliably monitor instruments that rarely fail," Reidemar said. "We're not robots. We can't just sit there and stare at the instruments for hours on end."
In addition to continually checking controls, flight crews must avoid distractions such as those cited in an incident in 2009 in which two Northwest pilots using laptop computers overshot their scheduled landing in Minneapolis by 100 miles.
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