Clues from voice recorder
The pilots apparently tried to speed up seven seconds before the crash, cockpit voice and flight data recorders showed.
A stall warning sounded three seconds later, telling the pilots the plane was about to lose its ability to stay in the air.
Then -- just 1.5 seconds before the plane slammed into the runway -- the crew decided to call off the landing and try to pull up for another try, Hersman said.
It was too late.
The frightening crash
With no warning from the cockpit, survivors said, the plane's rear struck the sea wall at the end of the runway. The impact severed the plane's tail and sent the rest of the body spinning on its belly.
Amateur video obtained exclusively by CNN shows the plane crashing and spinning counterclockwise and coming to a stop.
In addition to the two deaths, 182 people were hospitalized with injuries ranging from severe scrapes to paralysis.
"We're lucky there hasn't been a greater loss of life," San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said.
Some injured passengers remained hospitalized Monday, including six in critical condition at San Francisco General Hospital, said Dr. Margaret Knudson, the hospital's chief of surgery.
About half of those admitted to the hospital had spinal fractures, she said. Others have head trauma.
"Their recovery could be months and months and maybe not even to full recovery," she said.
Many of the injured said they were sitting toward the rear of the aircraft, Knudson said.
But 123 of the 307 people on board walked away uninjured. Benjamin Levy was among them.
"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," he said.