Passenger Benjamin Levy said it looked to him that the plane was flying too low and too close to the bay as it approached the runway. Levy, who was sitting in an emergency exit row, said he felt the pilot try to lift the jet up before it crashed.
He said he thought the maneuver might have saved some lives. “Everybody was screaming. I was trying to usher them out,” he recalled of the first seconds after the landing. “I said: ‘Stay calm, stop screaming, help each other out, don’t push.’”
Wen Zhang said she could feel the plane’s tail hit the ground. Baggage was falling around her, people were screaming and the aisle window broke.
Zhang picked up her 4-year-old son, who had hit the seat in front of him and broke his leg. Unhurt, she carried him through the hole where the bathroom was and went out onto the tarmac.
“I had no time to be scared,” she said.
Shi Da, a product manager at an Internet company in Hangzhou, China, said he was sitting with his wife and teenage son near the back of the plane. When he felt the plane hit the ground, he said, oxygen masks dropped down.
And when he stood up in a cabin, he could see the tail where the galley was torn away, leaving a gaping hole through which he could see the runway. After escaping, they watched the plane catch fire, and firefighters hose it down. They suffered some cuts and have neck and back pain.
“I just feel lucky,” he said. “We are so lucky we sit beside the tail and we can leave the plane in the first place.”
By the time the flames were out, much of the top of the fuselage had burned away. The tail section was gone, with pieces of it scattered across the beginning of the runway. One engine appeared to have broken away.