South Korean police have detained a man who opened the door of an Asiana Airlines plane minutes before it was due to land in the city of Daegu, causing panic among the passengers.
- A male passenger allegedly opened the emergency door when the plane was 200 metres off the ground
- Footage from inside the plane shows wind rushing in to the cabin
- Nine passengers, all teenagers, were sent to hospital after suffering breathing issues
The Airbus A321-200 plane landed safely at around 12:40pm local time.
It had set off from the holiday island of Jeju an hour earlier, the airport’s flight schedule showed.
Nine passengers, all teenagers, were sent to hospital after suffering breathing issues, a Daegu fire department official said.
“I thought the plane was going to explode … It looked like passengers next to the open door were fainting,” an unidentified 44-year-old passenger told the Yonhap News Agency.
The passenger said the cabin crew had made an in-flight announcement asking if there were any doctors on board.
A video, reported to have been shot by a passenger, showed the moments before the landing, with a door open and wind rushing in as passengers sat nearby.
The passengers included teenage athletes on their way to a track and field competition.
Some screamed and cried in panic, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing their unidentified coach.
Yonhap quoted other passengers as saying they had suffered severe ear pain after the door opened.
It said some cabin crew shouted for help from passengers to prevent the door from being opened.
Korea’s transport ministry said in a statement police had taken into custody the man who had opened the door, and authorities were investigating violations of aviation safety laws.
A transport ministry official told Reuters that authorities were looking into whether Asiana Airlines had followed protocols to manage emergency exits.
The official said it was possible to open the emergency exit when the aircraft was near the ground as the pressure inside and outside the cabin were similar.
The plane was about 200 metres in the air and two or three minutes away from landing when the passenger, who was sitting next to the emergency exit, opened a cover and pulled a lever so the door opened, an Asiana spokesperson said.
All onboard were seated with their seat belts fastened because the plane was about to land, the spokesperson said.
After the incident, pictures showed an open emergency door near the plane’s left wing and a deployed escape slide ripped away from it.
Sohn Myong-hwan, a professor at South Korea’s Sehan University’s aviation maintenance department, said it would be difficult for the airline to avoid potential responsibility in the case.
“It is particularly dangerous during landing and take-off, so someone from the flight staff should have stopped that passenger,” he said.