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Air crash in San Francisco causes confusion, frayed nerves

Veddpal Singh, a passenger from the crashed Asiana Airlines Boeing 777, speaks to the members of the press after an Asiana Airlines flight 2
Veddpal Singh, a passenger from the crashed Asiana Airlines Boeing 777, speaks to the members of the press after an Asiana Airlines flight 2

By Laila Kearney and Ronnie Cohen

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Bystanders watching an Asiana Boeing 777 flight make a seemingly routine approach to a San Francisco runway were stunned to see it come in fast and hit the ground hard on Saturday, while on board, passengers' survival instincts took over.

The crash at San Francisco International Airport left two people dead, while more than 180 people were transported to area hospitals, including many with serious injuries.

Vedpal Singh, a native of India, was on board the flight along with his wife and son when the aircraft struck the landing strip hard.

"Your instincts take over. You don't know what's going on," said Singh, who had his arm in a sling as he walked through the airport's international terminal and told reporters he had suffered a fractured collar bone.

"I'm very, very thankful to God," he said.

Singh lives in South Korea and had taken the flight for a vacation to California. He said that his son was fine but he had not yet been reunited with his wife.

Elliott Stone, a passenger on board the plane, told CNN that he thought the aircraft approached the airport "a little high" and made a sharp descent.

"All of a sudden, boom, the back end just hit and flies up into the air and everyone's head goes up the ceiling," Stone told CNN.

Greg Claxton, 39, of Sarasota, Florida, was among those who witnessed the crash from a shuttle bus traveling from his hotel to the airport.

"I saw a plane coming in really fast, really hard," Claxton said. "It appeared to land, spin and then fire. I instantly was praying for those people on board."

Claxton added that he ran off the shuttle. Others on board were crying at the sight of the crash.

After the crash, some reflected on how the disaster could have been worse. "It is incredible and very lucky that we have so many survivors," San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee told reporters.

Passengers who remained at the airport and family members who rushed to join them dealt with their frayed nerves. Some collected themselves at the airport's "Reflection Room," where workers from the Salvation Army were on hand to offer comfort to those involved in the crash.

"They are in shock, they're telling their stories," said Salvation Army Major Wayne Frodenberg, a disaster services coordinator for the organization. "It's quiet, people are sort of decompressing."

The Salvation Army was providing shoes to some passengers who lost their footwear in the crash, he said.

Most on board the Asiana Airlines flight 214 that crashed were Chinese, South Korean or American, and the two dead were reported to be Chinese citizens.

Among the scores of passengers injured in the crash and taken to hospitals, some suffered serious wounds such as internal bleeding and spinal fractures, said Dr. David Spain, chief of trauma medicine at Stanford Hospital, where about 45 patients from the crash went to its emergency room.

(Additional reporting by Sarah McBride and Alistair Barr, Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Tim Gaynor and Philip Barbara)

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