Its roof was charred and, in spots, gone. The back of the plane had been lopped off entirely.
Flames and smoke burst out of its windows.
"Honestly, I was waiting for the plane to ... start flipping upside down, in which case I think a lot of people would have not made it," Levy said.
"If we flipped, none of us would be here to talk about it."
Xu and his wife were among the fortunate.
"We quickly slung on luggage and grabbed our child and walked toward the back," Xu said on Weibo. "Saw the kitchen at back mostly disappeared. A huge hole -- very round. We quickly rushed out. Only after coming out did we see three of us had slight bruises."
The big question
Exactly what caused the crash could take up to two years to determine, said Choi Jeong-ho, head of South Korea's Aviation Policy Bureau.
South Korean investigators will work alongside officials from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.
The flight recorders from the plane have been recovered and are on the way to Washington, the NTSB said Sunday.
The airline purchased the plane, a Boeing 777-200, in March 2006. Asiana CEO and President Yoon Young-doo said there was no engine failure, to his knowledge.
"The company will conduct an accurate analysis on the cause of this accident and take strong countermeasures for safe operation in the future with the lesson learned from this accident," Yoon said.
Many of those who survived the crash chalked it to divine intervention.
"I think it's miraculous that we have survived because things could have been much worse," said passenger Vedpal Singh.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer and author of the book "Lean In," was supposed to be on Flight 2014. But she switched to a United flight, arriving about 20 minutes before the Asiana flight crashed.
"Serious moment to give thanks," she wrote on her Facebook page
Not the first time
Prior to Saturday's disaster, Asiana Airlines endured two deadly crashes over the past 20 years.
In 1993, a crash near South Korea's Mokpo Airport killed 68 of the 116 people on board. The Boeing 737-500 went down in poor weather as the plane was attempting its third landing, the Aviation Safety Network said.
And in 2011, a cargo plane headed from Seoul to Shanghai slammed into the East China Sea, killing the only two people on board.
Perhaps one of the reasons so many people survived Saturday's crash was because the Boeing 777 is built so that everybody can get off the plane within 90 seconds, even if half the doors are inoperable.
Still, many questions linger.
Yoon, Asiana's president and CEO, told reporters he could not confirm many details of the crash, pending the investigation.
But he started the press conference by bowing his head in apology.