As Asiana Airline's Flight 214 approached the runway from the waters of San Francisco Bay around noon last Saturday, travellers in the terminals and other eyewitnesses could see that the aircraft was swaying from side to side and that, at one point, the tail seemed to hit the ground.
The tail broke off and the aircraft appeared to bounce violently, leaving a trail of debris, before coming to rest on the tarmac.
Pictures taken by survivors immediately after the crash showed passengers emerging from the wrecked plane and hurrying away. Thick smoke then billowed from the fuselage, and TV footage later showed the aircraft was gutted and blackened by fire, with much of its roof gone.
Two Chinese girls found outside the wreckage were confirmed dead and 182 were taken to hospitals.
Among those on board were 77 Koreans, 141 Chinese, 61 United States citizens and one Japanese national, Asiana said in a statement.
A survivor of the crash described the terrifying moment as the Boeing 777 smashed into the ground at the international airport, flinging flight attendants out the back as the tail broke off.
"Right when it appeared to coast for the landing... (the pilot) sped up, like (he) knew he was short," Mr Elliott Stone told CNN. "And then the back end just hit, and flies up in the air, and everybody's head goes up to the ceiling. And then it just kind of drifts for a little bit, for a good 300 yards (270m). Fire starts."
He said the flight attendants sitting in the back "got hammered".
"And then they all fell out - and it was just the most terrible thing I've seen," he said.
The Chinese state media identified the two victims as 16-year-old students from Jiangshan Middle School in China's eastern Zhejiang province. They were both sitting at the back of the plane.