A South Korean passenger on an Asiana Airlines flight A321 was arrested on Friday after opening the emergency exit while the aircraft was landing. The airplane took off from Jeju Island and was landing in Daegu, South Korea when the passenger, who has not yet been publicly identified, opened the door while the plane was still 700 feet above ground level.
The passenger was arrested by local police and admitted to opening the aircraft door but didn’t explain why he did it. The plane landed safely with a total of 200 people on the plane at the time of the incident, including 194 passengers, none of whom were seriously injured, but The Daegu Fire Department told CNN 12 people suffered minor injuries from hyperventilation, and nine of them were sent to the hospitals in Daegu.
“It was chaos with people close to the door appearing to faint one by one and flight attendants calling out for doctors on board through broadcasting,” one 44-year-old passenger told Yonhap. He added, “I thought the plane was blowing up. I thought I was going to die like this.”
Police told the outlet that the suspect was not drunk at the time of his arrest saying, “It is difficult to have a normal conversation with him. We will investigate the motive of the crime and punish him.”
South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said in a statement that an investigation is underway to determine if the passenger was in violation of the aviation law, CNN reported. The law states that anyone who doesn’t adhere to the Aviation Security Act, which prohibits passengers from opening doors, exits, or equipment inside the aircraft, could be prosecuted and receive a sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment.
There is also an investigation underway by an aviation safety supervisor into Asiana Airlines to determine if there were problems with the aircraft’s maintenance. Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas of Airline Ratings told CNN the incident was “very bizarre.” He continued, “Technically, it’s not possible to open those doors in flight.”
When landing, the speed of an A321 airplane is roughly 172 mph, and Thomas said the door shouldn’t have been able to open into the airstream. “It seems implausible that the door could be opened in the first place and then against the airstream technically impossible,” he said, “But somehow or another it has happened.”