SAN FRANCISCO - A Boeing 777 operated by the Korean airline Asiana crashed while landing Saturday at San Francisco International Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
Images and video of the crash showed the plane on fire, with smoke billowing from the crumpled fuselage, lying on its belly on scrub grass at the airport. It had lost its tail.
The debris field from the crash began at the seawall at the start of the Runway 28, according to aerial video images. Both wings remained attached, but one engine was ripped off. The tail was snapped off some distance from where the plane finally came to rest in the grass off the runway.
The plane was Flight 214 from Seoul, South Korea, a spokesman for the FAA, Lynn Lunsford, said.
Firefighters were on the scene, but there were no immediate reports of the extent of casualties, although there were reports that the rescue slides had been deployed and a number of passengers had escaped. It was not clear how many people had been on board.
David Eun, who said in a Twitter message that he had been a passenger on the plane, posted a picture of a downed Asiana jetliner from ground level, which showed some passengers walking away from the aircraft.
An aviation official, who did not want to be identified discussing a fluid situation, said that the plane was not making an emergency landing, and that the situation had been entirely normal until the crash. The cause was also unclear.
Stefanie Turner, who posted on Twitter that she had witnessed the crash, said the "plane came in at a bad angle, flipped, exploded."
Juan Gonzalez, the supervising manager at Amoura Café in the airport, said that he had not heard any explosions but was told by airport workers that the tail had snapped off when it landed.
"Right now, there is just a lot of smoke and all the fire trucks are trying to get to the plane," Gonzalez said.
There was no immediate answer at a number listed for Asiana at San Francisco's airport.
The Asiana plane took off at 5:04 p.m. Korean time, about 34 minutes after its scheduled pushback from the gate, according to FlightAware, a tracking service. It reached the runway in San Francisco at 11:28 a.m. Pacific time. FlightAware said the route was slightly longer than planned, 7,257 miles over 10 hours and 23 minutes.
The National Transportation Safety Board said in Washington that it would dispatch a team of investigators immediately, including the board's chairwoman, Deborah A.M. Hersman.
The Asiana 777 is the second such plane to be destroyed on the runway. In January 2008, a 777 operated by British Airways crashed short of the runway at Heathrow in London on a flight from Beijing; investigators said ice had accumulated in the fuel lines and recommended a change to ensure that the problem could not happen again. There was only one serious injury among the 152 passengers and crew on board the British Airways flight, but the plane was destroyed.