Authorities Explain How Exit Door Was Opened Mid-Flight

The plane was low enough that he was able to open emergency exit, say South Korean authorities
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2023 8:50 AM CDT
Passenger Who Opened Plane Door Felt 'Suffocated'
Police officers in plain clothes arrest an airplane passenger at Daegu International Airport in Daegu, South Korea, Friday, May 26, 2023, after he allegedly opened an emergency exit door on an Asiana Airlines plane during a flight.   (Yun Kwan-shick/Yonhap via AP)

The story seemed hard to fathom for anyone who's been on airplane: A passenger jet in South Korea landed with one of its emergency exits wide open on Friday. Authorities say a 33-year-old man forced it open during the flight. New details have emerged to explain what happened, reports Reuters. Normally, exit doors cannot be opened because of the difference in air pressure between the inside and outside of the aircraft, explains the AP. But in this case, the Air Asiana plane with 200 people aboard was flying at a low enough altitude—about 700 feet—that the difference was negligible.

The man, identified only as Lee, told investigators he felt suffocated and "wanted to get off the plane soon." He was formally arrested on Sunday. He faces up to 10 years in prison on a charge of violating South Korea's aviation act. "I feel really sorry for the kids," he told reporters on his way into court Sunday. That was an apparent reference to students on board who were subsequently treated for breathing issues. Authorities say 12 people were treated at a hospital and released. Air Asiana says it is taking steps to make sure exit doors can no longer be opened mid-flight under any circumstances. (Read more air travel stories.)

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