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Asiana apologizes over jet crash accident


SEOUL, July 7 (Yonhap) -- Asiana Airlines Inc., South Korea's No. 2 flag carrier, apologized Sunday over a crash landing of its passenger jet in the U.S., which killed at least two people and injured dozens of others.

An Asiana Airlines flight from Seoul crashed and caught fire on the runway while landing at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday. The Boeing 777 plane, which departed from Incheon International Airport west of Seoul, was carrying 291 passengers and 16 crew members, according to the airline.

Seventy-seven South Koreans, 141 Chinese, 61 Americans, three Indians, one Vietnamese were on board, with the nationalities of the remaining passengers not confirmed yet.

"I sincerely apologize over the accident, and to the passengers on board and their families," Asiana Airlines president Yoon Yong-doo said in a press conference.

The airline said it is working hard to handle with the accident, but stopped short of confirming any casualties, except saying that the two Chinese victims were born in 1996 and 1997.

Asiana Airlines added that it plans to launch a task force in Beijing to cope with the accident accordingly.

"Three pilots on board held flight records hovering above 10,000 hours," Yoon said, apparently denying possibilities of negligence being the cause of the accident. "All pilots abided by the flight rules."

When asked about the company's plans to halt operations of their other Boeing 777 planes until the end of investigation, Yoon declined to elaborate further.

Asiana Airlines also dispatched a group of personnel to San Francisco earlier in the day to join an investigation into the crash landing.

South Korea's transportation ministry also said its investigation team left for the U.S. to work with its U.S. counterpart.

The U.S.'s National Transportation Safety Board team, Seoul's transportation ministry, Asiana Airlines and Boeing are expected to conduct a joint investigation into the crash landing, ministry officials said.

Yoon said there was no emergency in-flight announcement before landing, adding that the captain of the flight contacted a control tower in San Francisco International Airport after the landing.

Saturday's accident involving Asiana Airlines marks the second time in the company's history that one of its passenger jets was involved in a major accident. The last accident occurred in 1993 when a B737-500 crashed while trying to land at Mokpo airport, 410 kilometers south of Seoul. Two crew members and 66 passengers of the 110 on board were killed.

According to the Financial Supervisory Service, the combined insurance coverage on the Boeing 777 plane came to US$2.3 billion, which includes the coverage of $130 million on the body and $3 million in crew liability coverage. Up to $2.2 billion may be paid out on facility damages and human casualties.

"The figures are the maximum amount based on the contract, and it will take several months to calculate the exact compensation," an official from a local insurer said.

The FSS added that it will speed up efforts to pay out compensation to victims as soon as possible under cooperation with the General Insurance Association of Korea and local insurers.

Ten South Korean insurers share about 4 percent of insurance coverage for the plane, with the remaining undertaken by some 30 foreign reinsurers, the sources said.

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