SAN FRANCISCO —
They had gotten everyone off the craft except one elderly man, who was in his seat, moaning and unable to move.
"We were running out of time," San Francisco Fire Department Lt. Dave Monteverdi recalled Monday at a news conference. "The smoke was starting to get thicker and thicker. So we had no choice. We stood him up and amazingly, he started shuffling his feet. That was a good sign...we were able to get him out and he was pretty much the last person off the plane."
The two dead passengers were identified as 16-year-old students from China who were scheduled to attend summer camp in California with dozens of classmates.
One of their bodies was found on the tarmac near where the plane's tail broke off when it slammed into the runway, the other was found on the left side of the plane about 30 feet (10 meters) away from where the jetliner came to rest after it skidded down the runway.
The flight originated in Shanghai, China, and stopped over in Seoul, South Korea, before making the nearly 11-hour trip to San Francisco.
NTSB investigators are also sure to examine whether pilot fatigue played a role in the accident, which occurred after a 10-hour nighttime flight. As is typical for long flights, four pilots were aboard, allowing the crew to take turns flying and resting. But pilots who regularly fly long routes say it's difficult to get restful sleep on planes.
The accident occurred in the late morning in San Francisco, but in Seoul it was 3:37 a.m.
"Fatigue is there. It is a factor," said Kevin Hiatt, a former Delta Air Lines chief international pilot. "At the end of a 10-hour flight, regardless of whether you have had a two-hour nap or not, it has been a long flight."