The Airbus A321 bound for Daegu, South Korea, was still 200 meters above the ground when the chaotic incident unfolded
Nine people were hospitalized for minor injuries after a man opened an emergency exit on a Asiana Airlines plane in mid-flight, causing panic among the passengers. The man was arrested immediately upon landing.
The incident took place on an Airbus A321-200 jet bound for Daegu, South Korea on Friday afternoon, with one passenger reportedly opening a hatch on the plane’s left side as it descended for its landing, causing wind to rush into the cabin.
Footage of the mishap has circulated online, showing passengers holding on for dear life as the emergency exit hangs open. Some people on board fainted, according to local press reports, while a Daegu fire department official said nine teenagers were brought to the hospital after suffering breathing issues.
While nobody was seriously injured and the plane landed safely, the episode left some passengers rattled, with one telling Yonhap News “I thought the plane was going to explode.”
The Asiana Airlines flight carried 48 elementary- and middle-school students traveling for a national sporting competition. “Children quivered and cried in panic,” the mother of one of the students told the outlet. “Those sitting near the exit must have been shocked the most.”
A male passenger in his 30s was arrested for violating aviation safety laws soon after the plane landed at Daegu International Airport. The man reportedly confessed to attempting to force open the emergency door, but did not explain why.
An official from South Korea’s transportation ministry later stated the exit could have been disarmed and opened as the plane lost altitude, when the pressure in and outside of the cabin were about the same. The plane was minutes from landing when the hatch was opened, the airline said, noting it was about 200 meters (656 feet) above the ground.