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Asiana passengers begged 911 dispatchers for help

A group of people stand in front of the wreckage of Asiana Flight 214, which crashed on Saturday, July 6, 2013, as buses that were reported to be carrying passengers and family members are parked next to it on a tarmac at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Wednesday, July 10, 2013. Two passengers were killed and many others were injured in the crash. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

A group of people stand in front of the wreckage of Asiana Flight 214, which crashed on Saturday, July 6, 2013, as buses that were reported to be carrying passengers and family members are parked next to it on a tarmac at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Wednesday, July 10, 2013. Two passengers were killed and many others were injured in the crash. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Stunned and bleeding after a Boeing 777 crash-landed at the San Francisco airport, hundreds of passengers staggered across the debris-strewn tarmac, some trying to help the critically injured, others desperately calling 911 and begging for more ambulances as dire minutes ticked away.

“There’s not enough medics out here,” a caller told a dispatcher in a 911 call released by the California Highway Patrol. “There is a woman out here on the street, on the runway, who is pretty much burned very severely on the head and we don’t know what to do.”

Two people died and 180 of the 307 passengers were hurt Saturday when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 slammed tail-first into a seawall at the end of the runway. The impact ripped off the back of the plane.

The airliner, which came in too low and too slow, spun and skidded 100 feet before stopping. The battered passengers, some with broken bones, were told over the jet’s public-address system to stay in their seats for another 90 seconds while the cockpit consulted with the control tower, a safety procedure to prevent people from evacuating into life-threatening fires or machinery.

“We don’t know what the pilots were thinking, but I can tell you that in previous accidents there have been crews that don’t evacuate. They wait for other vehicles to come, to be able to get passengers out safely,” said National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman.

Many passengers jumped out the back of the plane or slid down inflated slides through emergency exits. Then, say some, an unnerving wait began. 911 tapes recorded frantic callers, pleading for help.

“We’ve been on the ground, I don’t know, 20 minutes, a half-hour,” said one woman. “There are people laying on the tarmac with critical injuries, head injuries. We’re almost losing a woman here. We’re trying to keep her alive.”

San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said yesterday that some passengers who called 911 may not have immediately seen ambulances at the scene because they were dispatched to a nearby staging area as first responders assessed who needed to be taken to the hospital.

Within 18 minutes of receiving word of the crash, five ambulances and more than a dozen other rescue vehicles were at the scene or en route, in addition to airport fire crews and crews from San Mateo County and other agencies already on the scene, Talmadge said.

“Our response was immediate,” Talmadge said. “It’s not what you may see in the movies. That’s not how a real-life response is to a large-scale incident.”

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