A terrifying incident unfolded Friday on an Asiana Airlines flight from Jeju Island to the city of Daegu in South Korea when a passenger opened an emergency door just minutes from landing.
Ordinarily impossible due to the air pressure difference between the cabin and atmosphere, the plane being only approximately 700 feet off the ground made the senseless act possible.
Officials report the Airbus A321-200 was flying 194 passengers. The manifest included 48 primary and middle school children who were traveling to a sporting event.
Reuters reported the passenger plane was flying about 170 mph when the door opened. An Asiana spokesperson said the plane was only two or three minutes away from landing when a passenger opened a cover and pulled the lever to open the door.
A 33-year-old male who was seated next to the emergency exit is the alleged culprit. Flight attendants could not intervene because they were already seated and buckled as the plane was making its descent.
A passenger on an Asiana Airlines flight in South Korea opened the door of the plane during the flight, claiming that he was overwhelmed. The passenger was arrested…
— Tansu YEĞEN (@TansuYegen) May 26, 2023
He reportedly said later that he was “overwhelmed.”
Authorities said afterwards that they are looking into whether the crew followed airline protocols covering emergency exits. One expert pointed blame at the crew for allowing the passenger to open the door during the landing.
Sohn Myong-hwan of South Korea’s Sehan University aviation maintenance department noted that “it is particularly dangerous during takeoff and landing.”
Because of this, he asserted, “someone from the flight staff should have stopped that passenger. To me, it seems difficult for the airline [to] get away from any potential responsibility here.”
Harrowing video footage taken by another passenger showed the rush of air out of the cabin and frantic passengers holding onto their seats. Powerful gusts of wind swept across them as a sudden burst of light flooded inside.
Nine teenage passengers were taken to an area hospital with breathing difficulties.
During the flight, the cabin crew reportedly made an announcement asking if there was a doctor aboard.
One unidentified 44-year-old on the flight told the Yonhap News Agency that they feared the plane was going to explode. “It looked like passengers next to the open door were fainting.”
Fortunately, all on board were strapped in due to the imminent landing. Photographs of the plane on the ground showed the open emergency door adjacent to the left wing and a deployed escape slide ripped away from the aircraft.