On July 6, 2013, the day of the Asiana Airlines crash at San Francisco International Airport, the true first responders were not firefighters or police officers, they were airport workers. More than a year later, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors took a moment to honor their heroic efforts.
The airport has privately honored these six men, but Tuesday was the first time they were recognized publically by the city and county of San Francisco.
When the plane crashed last year, six airfield safety officers at San Francisco’s airport - John Batkowski, Henry Choy, Alexis Esguerra, Brian Horne, Steven Crane and Bernardo Magana - ran toward the wreckage of the Asiana plane that had crashed on its final approach.
San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar said the men were at the scene within two minutes of the initial impact and nearly a minute before the first fire truck arrived.
“One person carried three people on his back to safety,” Mar said. “Others held their hand as they were trapped on the plane. They stayed with elderly people while the plane is burning at risk to their own lives and I think made a real difference by saving many people.”
Supervisor Mar pushed for the honors, even though one of the passenger deaths was attributed to other first responders.
“I know there’s still mourning one year after the disaster, but my hope is that by honoring [six] hard-working airfield security officers, it helps us understand the memory of those that perished,” Mar said.
Esguerra said they were just doing “what was right.”
“Airfield safety officers are not required to respond the way that we did,” Esguerra said, “but every one of us did because it was the right thing to do.”
One officer reportedly carried three people on his back to safety. Another stayed to hold the hand of victims trapped inside the plane.
Three people died and another 180 were injured that day. The officers said they think about those victims often and hope those who survived are doing well a year after the crash.
“I figure, one year later they are all doing well,” Esguerra said, “and maybe I had a hand in that.”