Guam Survivors Tell of Shaking, Fire

AGANA, Guam -- A Korean Air jetliner shook violently before crashing into the rocky terrain of tropical Guam, some survivors said Thursday. Others reported no signs of distress until the plane came to its violent end.


Twenty-nine people survived the crash early Wednesday of Flight 801 on this U.S.-governed Pacific island. The plane was carrying 254 passengers, including 13 Americans, when it went down in a heavy rainstorm on approach to the airport. By mid-afternoon, 99 bodies had been recovered.


There was no way to reconcile the survivors' conflicting reports. National Transportation Safety Board investigators Thursday were examining the thick, tropical underbrush for clues to what caused the Boeing 747 to crash. The voice and flight-data recorders have been sent to Washington for analysis.


The safety board's George Black told NBC's "Today'' that human error may have played a role because the plane appears to have flown into a hill, a process known as "controlled flight into terrain.''


"Controlled flight into terrain is usually an error on someone's part, and it does have all the earmarks of controlled flight into terrain,'' Black said by telephone from Guam.


Burned and scratched, some of the more fortunate survivors told of being hurled from the plane still attached to their seats, and of turning back in their escape from the burning jet to pull fellow passengers to safety.


"I felt the plane shake, and shake more, and then it was a sudden drop. It felt like there was no gravity,'' Song Yun-ho, 29, said from his bed at Guam's Navy hospital. "When I woke up, the plane had crashed.''


Song turned back to pull out another passenger. That passenger also survived.


The plane was carrying mainly Korean tourists, including many families heading to Guam's tropical beaches for vacation.


Flight attendant Oh Sang-hee, 25, lay in bed in another room at the Navy hospital, her face burned slightly and hair singed.


Oh had felt the jet shaking more than usual during the flight, worrying her so that she said at one point she looked out a window -- only to see flames surging.


She too spoke of being jolted from the jet while still in her seat by the impact of the crash, her seat belt still wrapped around her.


Another survivor, 35-year-old American Hong Seong, said he had not noticed anything out of the ordinary until the plane's landing gear hit the treetops.


"The two rows of seats in front were tumbling toward me ... that's when I heard the screaming,'' said Hong, who was at the same hospital.


Hundreds of family members were in Guam on Thursday, either to wait for authorities to identify the dead or, for a few, to comfort injured loved ones. Many were angry that bodies still remained at the crash site and said they would refuse to claim any remains until all victims had been accounted for.


Korean Air said the survivors included two Americans in addition to Hong; they were identified as Grace Chung and Angela Shim. Their hometowns were not available.