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Flight Attendant Called Hero

9:45 AM, Jul 8, 2013   |    comments
Lee yoon-Hye, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 flight attendant and cabin manager (AP)
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Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY

Asiana Airlines attendants are being lauded as heroes for their role in helping passengers to safety after the crash-landing of Flight 214 at San Francisco on Saturday.

Lee Yoon-hye, described by The Associated Pressas the "cabin manger" who was "apparently the last person to leave the burning plane," was among those being called out for her efforts to lead fliers to safety.

Speaking to AP, Lee described evacuation in the moments after the crash-landing, in which 305 of 307 people onboard the flight survived.

She tells the news agency that one of her colleagues carried a frightened elementary school-aged boy on her back off the plane and down the emergency exit slide.

MORE: Evacuating a plane quickly comes from training
FULL COVERAGE: The crash of Asiana Flight 214
AP: Asiana attendant describes dramatic evacuation

AP adds "Lee herself worked to put out fires and usher passengers to safety despite a broken tailbone that kept her standing throughout a news briefing with mostly South Korean reporters at a San Francisco hotel. She said she didn't know how badly she was hurt until a doctor at a San Francisco hospital later treated her."

San Francisco fire chief Joanne Hayes-White praised Lee, whom she talked to just after the evacuation, according to AP.

"She was so composed I thought she had come from the terminal," Hayes-White is quoted as saying to reporters in a clip posted to YouTube. "She wanted to make sure that everyone was off. ... She was a hero."

Passenger Eugene Anthony Rah, who was sitting in business class on Asiana Flight 214, echoed a similar theme in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

He describes a chaotic post-landing scene, telling the newspaper he saw an attendant helping passengers to the exit slides.

"She was a hero," Rah says to the Journal. "This tiny, little girl was carrying people piggyback, running everywhere, with tears running down her face. She was crying, but she was still so calm and helping people."

The speed of the evacuation of Asiana Flight 214 ... suggested to observers a textbook example of how to get more than 300 people off a plane after a crash and before it burns.

"It's incredible to see what these flight attendants were able to accomplish - with half the doors," Leslie Mayo, a flight attendant for American Airlines on 777s and national communications coordinator for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, says to USA TODAY.

The Journal also picks up on that theme in its story, writing "such quick-thinking heroics in the minutes after the plane's spectacular crash at San Francisco International Airport, combined with technological enhancements in recent years that have made jetliner accidents more survivable, likely prevented Saturday's disaster from being far more deadly, experts said."

As for flight attendant Lee, the 40-year-old who has been with Asiana for nearly 20 years says she sensed something was wrong with Flight 214 as it neared the runway.

"Right before touchdown, I felt like the plane was trying to take off. I was thinking, 'What's happening?' and then I felt a bang," Lee is quoted as saying by AP. "That bang felt harder than a normal landing. It was a very big shock. Afterward, there was another shock and the plane swayed to the right and to the left."

Then the captain ordered the evacuation of the aircraft, and Lee says she instinctively jumped to action.

"I wasn't really thinking, but my body started carrying out the steps needed for an evacuation," Lee says, according to AP. "I was only thinking about rescuing the next passenger."

And when she noticed flames, she adds: "I was only thinking that I should put it out quickly. I didn't have time to feel that this fire was going to hurt me."


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