(SAN FRANCISCO) — When Eugene Rah looked out the window from his seat on Asiana Airlines Flight 214 as the flight approached the runway at San Francisco International Airport, he said he knew the plane was going to crash.
“Right before the plane touched the runway, I could hear they were putting full power through the engine to try and lift the plane back up,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America Sunday. “I knew it was too late.”
Rah, a hip-hop producer, said he gripped his chair to brace for impact, but the plane landed so forcefully on the runway that he thought he had died upon landing.
“The impact was so powerful, I thought that was it. I thought I was dying until the plane stopped,” he said.
Rah, who has taken the flight from Seoul, South Korea to San Francisco 173 times, said passengers on board panicked as the plane crash landed on the runway, and only started to calm down when the plane came to a stop.
“When it first crashed, everyone was screaming,” he said. “Finally when the plane stopped, there was silence for some time before people started realizing we are back alive.”
Rah said the plane’s crew was heroic, and immediately helped passengers exit safely from the plane before it caught fire. But Rah said pilots did not warn the passengers of the possibility of a crash.
Another passenger who survived the flight, Lee Jang Hyung, told ABC News that upon landing, a voice came over the plane’s intercom to say the flight had landed safely and everyone should stay in their seats.
Hyung, a 32-year-old Korean citizen who lives near Berkeley, Calif., was travelling with his wife, Lee Jee Young, 33, and their 15-month-old toddler son. The family was sitting in the front row of the plane’s economy class section. His wife’s parents were in business class.
Hyung said he put on an oxygen mask that had dropped down and put another on his young son and ran to the door after the announcement was made.
“But I was turned back to my seat by the flight attendants. Right when I came back to my seat, I saw smoke and fire outside the right window. The flames were spreading and smoke started to come inside the aircraft. I grabbed my wife and son and ran to the exit door. By then, they had slides ready,” he said.
While the cause of Saturday’s crash is still unclear, ABC News’ aviation consultant Col. Stephen Ganyard told Good Morning America it seems unlikely that the Asiana Airlines flight suffered from a mechanical error.
“If [Rah] could hear the engine spool up to a full power position, it tells me that at the last second, this crew realized how low and slow they actually were,” he said. “They were trying to save the airplane by running the engines up to full throttle.”
Rah’s daughter, Eunice Rah, was not on board the flight with her father but learned about the crash a significant time before she heard from him. It wasn’t until he text messaged her that she knew he was safe.
“Just that he texted me, I was OK with that,” she told Good Morning America. “I finally felt oxygen in my lungs again.”
Benjamin Levy, who walked away from the crash’s wreckage, told ABC News the “bouncing” plane’s landing was surreal.
“The plane started going back up again and you don’t know if you’re going to go in a tailspin or not. Lucky we didn’t,” he said.
Levy said once the plane hit the runway, it was chaotic on board.
“People started going out and I just tried to lower the screaming and tried to have them exit as fast as possible,” he said.
But despite witness accounts of the plane cart-wheeling or flipping onto the runway, Levy said it would have been impossible for that to have happened.
“If we flipped, none of us would be here to talk about it,” he said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Julia Horowitz, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN
David Williams, CNN