NTSB’s Asiana Flight 214 photos take you inside the aftermath of a major plane crash


posted Monday, July 8, 2013 at 5:42 PM EDT

On Saturday, July 7, a Boeing 777 passenger jet operated by South Korea's Asiana Airlines crashed on arrival at San Francisco International Airport. Unless you've been off the grid since the weekend, you've doubtless already heard of the accident of Flight 214. News channels have spoken of little else, with coverage of the crash and its aftermath airing almost non-stop for the last couple of days.

What's been rare about the coverage, however, is that for the first time that we can recall, the National Transportation Safety Board has been openly providing photos taken by early responders at the crash scene. From shots of the so-called "black boxes" (which are actually red orange, apparently) being analyzed to images inside the passenger cabin of the crashed jet, they make for very sobering viewing indeed.

And as horrific as the accident was, it could have been so much worse. A video of the crash by plane spotter Fred Hayes -- picked up in an exclusive by CNN -- shows the widebody aircraft clearly far too low as it reaches the runway threshold. And soon after impact, the plane appears to come close to flipping over as it slides out of control down the runway. It's a testament to the solid construction of modern commercial aircraft that somehow both fuselage and wings withstood the punishment, leaving the passenger cabin relatively intact.


Luckily, in spite of the extremely heavy impact, a swift response by cabin crew and emergency services also helped keep the death toll remarkably low. So far, of the 307 passengers and crew aboard Asiana flight 214 from Seoul's Incheon International Airport, only two fatalities and a handful of critical injuries have been reported. More than a hundred passengers escaped relatively unscathed before the fuselage of the aircraft was engulfed in flames. Had the plane rolled, or the response been less swift, many more fatalities would almost certainly have been the result. 

Seeing the jumbled array of seats, it seems incredible anybody could have escaped with their lives, let alone the majority of the aircraft's passenger manifest. We've selected some of the most compelling images below; you can see more on the official NTSB Twitter page.