There have been numerous stories in recent years about fights and other disruptions aboard commercial jets, but one incident that occurred near the end of a flight in South Korea was particularly harrowing for passengers and crew members.
According to reports, an Asiana Airlines plane carrying nearly 200 people — including about four dozen young children — made its way almost all the way from Jeju Island to Daegu without incident.
Just a few minutes before landing, however, a passenger identified as a 33-year-old man was able to open an emergency exit door. At the time, the aircraft was flying at about 170 miles per hour and was approximately 700 feet in the air.
Making matters worse, flight attendants on board were prepared for landing and were buckled into their own seats, which prohibited them from immediately addressing the situation. The result, as evidenced in the cell phone video captured by one witness, was a huge rush of wind and bright sunlight filling the jet’s fuselage.
“I thought the plane was going to explode,” said one adult passenger, adding that passengers seated near the disruption appeared to faint.
One woman whose child was also on the plane said that the students on board “were shaking, crying, and frightening” with those in closest proximity to the open door experiencing the most acute shock.
Fortunately, there were no physical injuries reported. However, a dozen children age 16 or younger experienced hyperventilation — and nine of them were transported to an area hospital.
A passenger opened an emergency exit door during a flight in South Korea, forcing the crew to land while it was still open.
Air blew through the cabin of the Asiana Airlines jet, slightly injuring 12 people. pic.twitter.com/Nl8HqXeiLb
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 26, 2023
As for the passenger who opened the emergency exit, law enforcement stated that he could be charged with a violation of aviation security laws.
At most points during a flight, the massive air pressure would prevent someone from opening the door. Asiana Airlines spokesperson Baek Hyunwoo noted that as the plane was in descent, the air pressure had weakened enough to make it possible.
Sehan University aviation maintenance professor Sohn Myong-hwan explained: “It is particularly dangerous during landing and takeoff, so someone from the staff should have stopped that passenger. To me, it seems difficult for the airline to get away from any potential responsibility here.”