The idea of a huge hunk of metal filled with gasoline and people flying through the air still baffles my mind. And those of us that fly regularly have all had those moments of fear, thinking, “what if this plane crashes?” Luckily, few of us will ever experience this because plane crashes are not a normal occurrence. In fact, the risk of being killed in a plane crash annually is 1 in 11 million. Compare that to the risk of being killed in an automobile crash, which is 1 in 5,000. Pretty good odds.
This weekend it became more of a reality, when I started seeing news tweets appear on my phone regarding a plane crash at SFO. The early reports didn’t provide much detail, other than the fact that a plane crashed at the airport. Later tweets, provided news on the number of passengers, victims, hospitals and conditions. A few days has gone by and now we are learning about the pilot and his lack of experience flying this particular model of plane and conditions at the airport.
The news programs are making their own judgments, coerced by their panel of “experts” and feeding the public consumption that the pilot screwed up. I find it hard to wrap my head around a plane crashing with four pilots aboard. Unless all of them thought that the plane was going to land properly until those final seconds before it was too late. I’m sure we’ll be learning more and hearing directly from those pilots soon.
The biggest part of this story for me was hearing from the cabin manager, Lee Yoon-hye, who was the last person to leave the plane after making sure that everyone on board had been evacuated. She did so with a broken tailbone, unknown to her. In the chaos after the crash, her training immediately went into effect. She says that her body just started going through the motions, without much thought from her brain. She found two of her flight attendants pinned under an air slide that had opened inside the plane and also guided many of the passengers out through various exits. Only when the smoke became too much, did she finally make her way out. Everyone was accounted for.
First responders also did any excellent job of getting everyone off of the plane and then triaging them to four local hospitals based on condition. Without that type of thinking and immediate action, many more would have died. These first responders, while passengers are looking to escape the plane, go right inside and help people out. It’s a courageous act, not knowing if the plane is about to explode.
Unfortunately, two teens died and others are paralyzed. Hopefully we’ll learn more in the days and months ahead as the information is sifted through and things become clearer.