Some of social media's biggest channels and a few of the tech industry's biggest names became focal points in the aftermath of the fatal crash landing of Asiana Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport.
As has become customary when major events occur, social networking sites Twitter and Facebook and photo sharing app Path lit up and became a crucible of commentary, reporting and emotions about the fiery crash.
This time, though, the on-the-ground reporting had a slightly different twist: The most intense posts came from a top tech executive, David Eun, who was one of the Flight 214 survivors. Eun heads the Open Innovation Center at Samsung, the group responsible for new products, partnerships and ventures at the South Korean gadget giant.
Eun kept his Path and Twitter followers at the edges of their seats with his informative and seemingly icy calm dispatches beginning immediately after the plane hit the runway.
"I just crash landed at SFO. Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I'm ok. Surreal ... ," he wrote on Path. "Fire and rescue people all over the place. They're evacuating the injured. Haven't felt this way since 9/11. Trying to help people stay calm. Deep breaths ..."
As Eun's posts came to light, media entities sought him out. At one point CNN asked him to get on the phone for an interview, but he declined.
"I don't want to divert attention away from crash," he tweeted. "[I] posted updates to let everyone know that majority of passengers seem ok."
Facebook exec shifts flights
Another tech executive had a very different social media experience Saturday. Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook, had planned to be on the Asiana flight with members of her family. But at the last minute they switched to another flight on United Airlines, she said in a series of Facebook posts that seemed aimed at reassuring anyone who'd been aware of her plans.
"Taking a minute to be thankful and explain what happened. ... We switched to United so we could use miles for my family's tickets. Our flight was scheduled to come in at the same time, but we were early and landed about 20 minutes before the crash. Our friend Dave (David Eun) was on the Asiana flight and he is fine. Thank you to everyone who is reaching out -- and sorry if we worried anyone. Serious moment to give thanks."
Sandberg, perhaps the most powerful female executive in Silicon Valley besides Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and a newly minted best-selling author, soon became a focal point in the breaking crash coverage. Her near-miss story began to eat up headlines, which caused others to tweet in disgust that she was taking attention away from the crash victims.
"Ugh. News shouldn't be about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg not being on SFO plane crash. Focus on poor souls who were." -- Bonnie Burton (@bonniegrrl)
"Yowch. Just stubbed my toe pretty badly. BUT SHERYL SANDBERG IS OKAY SHE WAS ON ANOTHER TOE AND IS SO BLESSED AND THANKFUL" -- Jason Linkins (@dceiver)
Witness posts on Twitter
The immediacy and broad reach of social media mean that it's not just recognizable names that can draw vast amounts of attention from those following posts and tweets. Twitter user Danielle Wells, who was not on the plane but witnessed the crash from nearby, began posting right after the event.
"Literally just witnessed a plane crash start to finish. I cannot stop crying I can't believe this" -- Wanielle Dells (@DanielleLWells)
Requests for interviews from across the Twitter-verse began to pour in, causing the shaken Wells to post a plea for people to stop hounding her.
"For the people who don't clearly understand, I just witnessed something traumatizing and heartbreaking," she wrote, adding an epithet to make her point clear.
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