Panicked passengers on Asiana Airlines Flight 214 pleaded with 911 operators to send first responders and ambulances to help the injured victims minutes after the plane crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport last weekend.
"We've been down on the ground, I don't know, 20 minutes, a half-hour," one woman said in a call to 911. "There are people waiting on the tarmac with critical injuries. We're almost losing a woman here. We're trying to keep her alive ..."
Another caller told a 911 operator that more help was needed to tend to the more than 180 injured passengers on the Boeing 777.
"We just crashed-landed on the airline and it looks like help's coming, but not too many ambulances," one caller said.
The 911 calls were released by the California Highway Patrol late Wednesday after National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said flight attendants were initially told by the pilot not to evacuate the airplane.
It was not until 90 second later, when a flight attendant saw flames, that the doors of the Boeing 777 were opened and passengers and crew began evacuating, Hersman said at a news conference.
"Hindsight is 20/20," she said. "We need to understand what they were thinking, what their procedures are, whether they complied with these, whether that evacuation proceeded in a timely manner."
Additionally, Hersman said three flight attendants had been ejected from the plane on impact. At a Tuesday news conference, it had been reported that two flight attendants had been flung onto the runway.
While six of the 12-member flight crew remain hospitalized, those who have been released, including a woman in a wheelchair, made a brief appearance Wednesday afternoon at San Francisco International Airport but were too distraught to speak.
With their heads bowed and some weeping, the flight attendants surrounded cabin manager Lee Yoon Hye, who made a brief statement through a translator.
"I hope all the families who have suffered losses from this accident to recover as quickly as possible and they're in my prayers," she said.
Meanwhile, Hersman said NTSB investigators are hoping to interview the remaining flight attendants as they probe what caused the crash.
She said the pilot of the plane told investigators he was temporarily blinded by a light at 500 feet as he approached the airport, but she declined to speculate on what could have caused the problem.
"We need to understand exactly what that is," she said, calling it "a temporary issue."
Federal investigators have yet to indicate whether the crash can be attributed to pilot error, while they continue to analyze data recovered from the plane's black boxes.