Within minutes, however, flames could be seen outside the plane's windows and smoke was seeping into the cabin.
Lee Jang-Hyung, 32, was sitting with his wife Lee Ji-Young, 33, and his toddler son who is 15 months old in the front row of the plane's economy class section. His parents-in-law were sitting in business class.
Hyung said he and his family survived the crash without injury, but he was clearly shaken by the harrowing
"Just minutes before landing, I looked out the window and realized the plane's angle was strangely tilted. The seawater level did not look right," said Hyung, a Korean citizen who lives near Berkeley. His wife is an American citizen.
"Suddenly, the plane's tail part hit the ground and the aircraft bounced upwards and then bam, it hit the ground again. This time it felt like the entire plane hit parallel, but tilted to the left. That pressure was huge. Very strong. I saw luggages fall from the top. And the plane gradually stopped.
"Until then, there was no warning. The drop happened without a warning," he said.
Still stunned by the crash, he said, "We heard an announcement saying the plane has safely landed and everyone should stay put."
Hyung said he put on an oxygen mask that had dropped down and put another on his young son and ran to the door.
"But I was turned back to my seat by the flight attendants. Right when I came back to my seat, I saw smoke and fire outside the right window. The flames were spreading and smoke started to come inside the aircraft. I grabbed my wife and son and ran to the exit door. By then, they had slides ready," he said.
San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes White said that when the first fire units arrived, three chutes were deployed and passengers were sliding down to evacuate the plane.
"My parents-in-law were on business class and they told us that they saw a stewardess hurt. When the plane made the second crash and all fell loose, some sort of computer machinery fell from the ceiling on top of her when she was sitting at the flight attendants' seat by the door," Hyung said.
"People were trying to help her, they said. My mother-in-law is injured.... both are bruised by luggage that spilled out," he said.
The ordeal didn't end after their evacuation Hyung said he was somewhere in the airport, but he didn't know where.
"They put us on some sort of cargo elevator and we are somewhere at a dirty smelly place. I had to wait five hours with no diapers and no food. After complaining hard, the authorities finally just brought me diapers," Hyung said.
He said the injured were taken to hospitals, but the other passengers "are all waiting for directions."
Later, they were moved to a more pleasant lounge and given crackers and fruit. But they were told that everyone on the plane had to be interviewed by the FBI before they could be allowed to leave.