Posted: 07/09/2013 07:19:34 PM PDT
SCOTTS VALLEY -- Elliot Stone has had a lifetime of training in martial arts, but none in emergency medicine. Still he was one of the first responders to reach four victims who were torn from the Asiana jumbo jet Flight 214 as it crashed at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday.
Just seconds came between Stone's realization that something was wrong and the impact. He was seated next to Elena Jin, 23, his fiancee from Santa Cruz whom he had proposed to a day earlier at their hotel in Suwon, South Korea.
"All that went through my mind was grabbing her arm, looking in her eyes and saying, 'This might be it,' " he said.
When the plane finally stopped, Stone, 25, said he and his friends and family were able to escape quickly.
Stone, the owner of Elite Martial Arts Academy in Scotts Valley, and a group of nine people including family and clients, had been in South Korea for 10 days on a vacation and to compete in an international competition in the Korean martial art of ho kuk mu sul.
He said he's been studying the art since he was 7, and credits it with helping him to remain calm in any situation.
While in Korea, he tested for his fourth-degree black belt in the sport. One of his students, David Schimmel, 19, of Scotts Valley won first place in the competition.
On the trip back, Stone and the rest of the group, including Brian Thomson, 45, Elliot's parents, Walter Stone, 64, and Cindy Stone, 63, and his brother Oliver Stone, 29, all of Scotts Valley, and Elena's 16-year-old sister, Alisa Jin, of Santa Cruz, were seated in the middle of the plane above the wings.
"One of the things that causes me extreme anxiety is the what if," Walter Stone said about his whole family being on one ill-fated flight.
After the crash, some of the group escaped on inflatable chutes, while Elliot Stone and others had to climb out over piles of rubble and luggage, through holes in the warped, Fiberglass walls of the fuselage, jumping about 5 feet from the tilted wreck to the ground. All were lucky enough to walk away from the crash with just a few scratches and bruises.
Stone said it only took a minute for the group to reunite on the ground. They hugged and ran away from the wreck, still stranded in the middle of the vast runway. He called his grandmother so she wouldn't worry when the crash made the news. Then they went looking for people they could help.
Looking back down the path the plane had slid along, Elliot Stone said they saw a woman covered in blood, stumbling toward them, calling out for help from about 500 yards away. He, his father, brother, Schimmel and Thomson ran toward the woman and realized three more were still in the wreckage, at the end of the runway closest to the water of the San Francisco Bay, where the plane had first hit the tarmac. They split up and each stayed with one of the injured women, at least two of whom were flight attendants.
When an ambulance had not arrived about 25 minutes after the crash, Elliot Stone said he called 911. As soon as police arrived, the men were told to stop and wait with the other survivors.
"They were yelling at us, 'Go back! Go back!' " Stone said. "But we were finding people."
WAITING AND WONDERING
About 90 minutes later, a bus took them to the United Airlines terminal, where they waited another six hours.
When Elliot Stone and the rest of the uninjured passengers were ushered to the airport, he said they were shuffled around between rooms, told to write their contact information on a list, and not allowed to leave or informed about what was happening. He called CNN and told his story to Wolf Blitzer while he waited.
"It makes sense that if they were ruling out terrorism or something they wouldn't let us go, but it seemed pretty straightforward what happened," he said.
The Boeing 777 had taken off in Shanghai and stopped in Seoul before crossing the Pacific on a flight that Stone described as uneventful, until the end. The crash landing injured at least 180 of the 307 people on board and killed two 16-year-old Chinese girls who were on their way to a summer camp in Southern California.
Stone said he thinks one of the deceased was among the four women he and his family and friends found in their initial search for survivors.
Despite the ordeal, Stone said thinks he will fly again.
"We'll get there when get there," he said. "It shouldn't stop us from living our lives."