If you want to engage in some speculation about Saturday’s crash in San Francisco, James Fallows, a private pilot, and Patrick Smith, a professional pilot, are both worth a read. From Smith, this, a thousand times this:
Meanwhile, looking at some of the footage, I was appalled by the number of passengers who chose to evacuate the burning aircraft with their carry-on luggage. We’ve seen this in several on-the-runway evacuations in recent years. I understand that reaching for one’s valuables is human nature, and that people don’t always behave rationally in a crisis, but lugging your carry-ons down the aisle in the middle of an emergency evacuation, when seconds can mean the difference between life and death, is reckless. You’re endangering not merely your own life, but the lives of those people behind you. And those escape slides are much higher and steeper than it appears on television. They are not designed with convenience in mind. They are there to get a planeload of people out of, and away from, the aircraft as quickly as possible — without their belongings. When you slide, you slide very fast, and jumping into a slide with your belongings places physical obstacles directly in the path of others.
One of the recent evacuations Smith is referencing is the Air France “Miracle in Toronto” in August, 2005, where all on board survived a runway overrun and crash into a ravine and post-crash fire. In addition to taking carry-ons with them, at least one of those passengers snapped pictures during the evacuation. Given the rarity of survivable crashes, and the dire need to get the fuck out of the plane as soon as possible after a survivable crash, taking your carry-on or snapping pictures is like running back into a serial killer’s house after getting away because you left your cell phone on his kitchen table.