SCOTTS VALLEY -- Elliot Stone has had a lifetime of training in martial arts, but after acting as a first responder when the jet he was on crashed Saturday, he said he's planning to be trained in emergency medicine, too. He was the first person to find four victims who were torn from the Asiana jumbo jet flight 214 as it crashed into San Francisco International Airport Saturday.
The plane came in for a landing flying too low and too slow; its landing gear crashed against the sea wall at the end of the runway, ripping open the back of the airplane and scattering people onto the runway, while the rest of the airplane careened down the tarmac.
Just seconds came between Stone's realization that something was wrong and the impact. He was seated next to Elena Jin, 23, his fiancee from Santa Cruz whom he had proposed to a day earlier at their hotel in Korea.
"All that went through my mind was grabbing her arm, looking in her eyes and saying, 'This might be it,'" he said.
When the plane finally stopped, Stone, 25, said he and his friends and family were able to escape quickly.
Stone is the owner of Elite Martial Arts Academy in Scotts Valley. The group had been in South Korea for 10 days for an international competition in the Korean martial art of ho kuk mu sul, and for a vacation.
He said he's been studying the art since he was 7, and it helps him stay calm in any situation.
While in Korea, he tested for his fourth-degree black belt in the sport, but won't know if he was successful until December. One of his students, David Schimmel, 19, won first place in the competition. Brian Thomson, 45, is also a student but did not compete in Korea. Elliot's parents, Walter Stone, 64, and Cindy Stone, 63, and his brother Oliver Stone, 29, were also on the trip, along with Elena's 16-year-old sister, Alisa Jin. The group was seated in about the 16th row on the plane.
"One of the things that causes me extreme anxiety is the what if," Walter said, about his whole family being on one, ill-fated flight.
Some of the group escaped on inflatable chutes, while Elliot Stone and others had to climb out over piles of rubble and luggage, through holes in the warped, Fiberglas walls of the aircraft, jumping about 5 feet from the tilted wreck to the ground. All were lucky enough to walk away from the crash with just a few scratches and bruises.
Elliot said it only took a minute for the group to reunite on the ground. They hugged and ran away from the wreck, still stranded in the middle of the vast runway. Elliot called his grandmother so she wouldn't worry when the crash made the news.
Then they went looking for people they could help.
Looking back down the path the plane had slid along, Elliot Stone said they saw a woman covered in blood, stumbling toward them, calling out for help from about 500 yards away. He and his father and brother and Schimmel and Thomson ran toward the woman and realized three more were still in the wreckage, at the end of the runway closest to the water of San Francisco Bay, where the plane had first hit the tarmac. They split up and each stayed with one of injured women, at least two of whom were flight attendants.
When an ambulance had not arrived about 25 minutes after the crash, Elliot Stone said he called 911. As soon as police arrived, the men were told to stop and wait with the other survivors.
"They were yelling at us, "Go back! Go back!" Stone said. "But we were finding people."
About 90 minutes later, a bus took them to the United Airlines terminal, where they waited another six hours.
"The biggest thing we noticed," he recalled, "was just the lack of protocol. It wasn't necessarily individuals' faults, it was just they didn't know the protocol, or there was no protocol. No one was directing the show."
When Elliot Stone and the rest of the uninjured passengers were ushered to the airport, he said they were shuffled around between rooms, told to write their contact information on a list and not allowed to leave or told what was happening. He called CNN and told his story while he waited.
"It makes sense that if they were ruling out terrorism or something they wouldn't let us go, but it seemed pretty straight forward what happened," he said. "We had five or six different agencies telling us what to do, but actually we weren't doing anything at all."
The Boeing 777 had taken off in Shanghai and stopped in Seoul before crossing the Pacific on a flight that Stone described as uneventful, until the end. The crash landing injured at least 180 of the 307 people onboard and killed two 16-year-old, Chinese girls who were on their way to a summer camp in Southern California.
Stone said he thinks one of the deceased was among the four women he and his family found in their initial search for survivors.
Follow Sentinel reporter Ketti Wilhelm on Twitter at twitter.com/KettiWilhelm