A man who opened an emergency exit door during a flight in South Korea has been formally arrested and faces severe consequences for his actions. The 33-year-old individual could potentially be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for violating aviation security laws, according to officials.
The incident occurred on an Asiana Airlines Airbus A321-200 during a flight from the southern island of Jeju to Daegu. As the plane was preparing to land, the man opened the emergency exit door, causing a rush of air to enter the cabin and creating panic among the passengers.
Twelve individuals suffered minor injuries, with some experiencing ear pain and witnessing the distress of fellow travelers. A video circulated on social media capturing the moment when passengers’ hair was blown around by the sudden influx of air.
Normally, emergency exit doors cannot be opened during a flight due to the significant difference in air pressure between the interior and exterior of the aircraft. However, in this instance, the man was able to open the door because the plane was flying at a low altitude while preparing to land, resulting in a minimal pressure differential, as explained by Asiana Airlines officials.
Upon investigation, the man stated that he felt suffocated and wanted to exit the plane quickly. The Transport Ministry reported that the plane was at an altitude of 700 feet when the incident occurred. Among the 200 passengers on board were teenage athletes en route to a track and field competition, according to Asiana Airlines.
On Sunday, a district court in Daegu approved the arrest warrant for the man. Police had requested the warrant due to the gravity of the offense and concerns that the individual might attempt to flee. The investigation is expected to take up to 20 days before a decision is made on whether to send the case to prosecutors for potential indictment.
The man, identified by the surname Lee, expressed remorse and apologized to the teenage athletes and other passengers. He explained that he had recently lost his job, leading to stress and a sense of suffocation during the flight. Daegu police are continuing their investigation into the matter.
As a precautionary measure, Asiana Airlines has temporarily suspended the sale of emergency exit seats on its A321-200 aircraft. The man was seated near the emergency exit, prompting the airline to take this safety action.
The incident serves as a reminder of the importance of adhering to aviation regulations and the severe consequences that can result from jeopardizing the safety and well-being of fellow passengers during flights.