At least nine people suffered minor injuries and were sent to a hospital in Daegu after an airplane door was ripped open during a domestic flight carrying 194 passengers, according to the local fire department on Friday.
The nine people had hyperventilated, according to fire authorities in Daegu.
The incident happened as the plane door opened immediately before landing at Daegu Airport at 12:45 p.m. The airplane, operated by Asiana Airlines, departed from Jeju Island at 11:49 a.m. Friday. It was about 200 meters above ground when the emergency door opened.
Passengers were exposed to the fierce wind blowing into the plane through the emergency door, which was completely ajar, for about 10 minutes until the plane landed. Some young passengers were reported to have panicked, crying and screaming as the air pressure deafened them.
Among the injured passengers were eight student athletes traveling to compete in the National Junior Sports Festival that kicks off Saturday in the neighboring city of Ulsan, according to the Jeju Self-governing Provincial Office of Education.
Daegu Airport authorities said no deaths or severe injuries occurred as a result of the incident.
According to Asiana Airlines and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, a male passenger in his 30s who was sitting in an emergency exit aisle pulled the emergency exit lever by force. The man reportedly claimed that he accidentally opened the door by touching the wrong device.
The case was being handled by the Dongchon District Office under the Daegu Police Agency.
Asiana said the door should not have opened due to the air pressure difference, but the air pressure decreased just before landing, allowing it to open.
“There are no crew members sitting next to all emergency exits. The crew tried to stop his strange behavior, but it was too late,” the company said in a statement.
The firm added that the door is designed for passengers to be able to open it under emergency circumstances, and that there is no separate locking device.
The company has not said whether it would seek civil and criminal responsibility. It has also yet to determine the extent of the damage and associated costs to the plane.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said it plans to obtain the details of the incident from the airline. The ministry also mentioned that the man who opened the door would be held legally responsible, in accordance with relevant laws such as the Aviation Safety Act and the Aviation Security Act, following a police investigation.
Under the Aviation Security Act, manipulation of doors, exits or devices that hinder aircraft security or operation are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.