Man who burst open flight’s emergency exit midair may have been suicidal: police

Asiana Airlines’ Airbus A321 plane, of which a passenger opened a door on a flight shortly before the aircraft landed, is pictured at an airport in Daegu, South Korea May 26, 2023. — Reuters/File

A passenger, who put the lives of nearly 200 passengers and crew at stake by opening an emergency exit on a flight midair, said he felt breathless and could not wait to get off the plane, South Korean police said Saturday.

An Asiana Airlines domestic flight with nearly 200 passengers on board Friday escaped disaster by the breadth of a hair just minutes before landing at Daegu international airport, about 150 miles south-east of Seoul, Guardian reported quoting Yonhap News Agency.

He also told police he was stressed after losing his job recently and was suspected to have tried to harm himself and others in a rage of frustration.

The man opened the door when the plane was about 700 feet (213m) above the ground, causing panic onboard.

Nine passengers were sent to the hospital with breathing issues. All were dismissed from the hospital after about two hours, a fire department official said.

Police plan to arrest the detained man after investigations conclude, Yonhap said.

“He felt the flight was taking longer than it should have been and felt suffocated inside the cabin,” a Daegu police detective said.

“He wanted out quickly.”

According to Guardian, the passenger faces up to 10 years in prison for violating aviation safety laws.

The man who opened a door on the Asiana Airlines plane is brought to a police station in Daegu. — Reuters
The man who opened a door on the Asiana Airlines plane is brought to a police station in Daegu. — Reuters

A video clip shot by a nearby passenger showed wind ripping through the open door, with fabric seat-backs and passengers’ hair flapping wildly as some people shouted in surprise.

Another video shared on social media showed passengers sitting in the emergency exit row next to an open door being buffeted by strong winds.

A dozen passengers were taken to hospital after experiencing breathing difficulties but there were no major injuries or damage, according to the transport ministry.

“It was chaos with people close to the door appearing to faint one by one and flight attendants calling out for doctors on board,” a 44-year-old passenger said.

“I thought the plane was blowing up. I thought I was going to die like this.”

A transport ministry official told AFP that this was “the first such incident” they were aware of in Korean aviation history.

Experts say South Korea’s aviation industry has a solid safety record.

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