Aerials of the crash, provided by ABC's San Francisco station KGO-TV, showed the plane's tail severed from its body, as well as the majority of the aircraft's roof completely charred away. One of the plane's wings appeared to have snapped upon impact. Debris from the crash landing was scattered across the airport's runway 28.
Benjamin Levy, who was on the plane, said he's grateful to be alive.
"I mean, when I saw the hole in the front of the plane on the roof I wasn't quite sure if it was the fire afterward or if something had happened before. I couldn't tell," Levy said.
A video posted on YouTube showed gray smoke billowing from the plane, which was lying on the runway on its fuselage. Chutes had been deployed from the plane's emergency exits.
A witness described to ABC News what he saw when the plane was landing.
"The nose of the plane was higher than usual for a plane coming in to land and I thought that was odd," Stephen Dear said. "It got closer and closer. I saw the back tail hit the ground."
Dear said the plane then "caught fire immediately."
Stephanie Turner saw the Asiana Airlines flight crash and she was sure that she "had just seen a lot of people die."
Turner said that when she saw a plane preparing to land on the runway, it looked as if it was approaching at a strange angle.
"As we saw the approaching Asiana flight coming in, I noticed right away that the angle was wrong, that it was tilted too far back," she said. "The angle didn't manage to straighten out and the tail broke off."
"It looked like the plane had completely broken apart," Turner said. "The flames and smoke were just billowing."
Plane's Safety Record
The Boeing 777 is one of the safest airplanes in use, ABC News aviation analyst John Nance said.
"These airplanes are over the water, over the ocean all the time and Asiana has been running them for many years very successfully," Nance said.
Boeing issued a statement to ABCNews.com on the news of the crash.
"Boeing extends its concern for the safety of those on board Asiana Airlines Flight 214," the company said. "Boeing is preparing to provide technical assistance to the National Transportation Safety Board as it investigates the accident."
The last Boeing 777 to crash was a British Airways jet en route from Beijing to London's Heathrow airport, which crash landed short of the runway in January 2008. There were no fatalities, but 47 people on board sustained injuries.
The plane was powered by Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines, according to a statement from the company's spokeswoman Pratt & Whitney.
Pratt & Whitney said it was cooperating with authorities, but declined to comment further.
ABC News' Joohee Cho, ABC News Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.