A passenger was arrested as soon as his Asiana Airlines flight touched down safely in the South Korean city of Daegu Friday, despite him cracking open an emergency cabin door just minutes before the Airbus A321 landed.
Some people aboard the aircraft tried to stop him, but he managed to partially open the door, South Korea’s Transport Ministry said.
The person was detained by airport police on suspicion of violating aviation security laws, a ministry statement said. The person’s identity and motive weren’t immediately released, but local media said he was a large man who appeared to be in his 30s.
The law bars passengers from handling exit doors and other equipment on board and provides for penalties of up to 10 years in prison, the ministry said.
The plane with 194 passengers and six crew aboard was heading to Daegu from the southern South Korean island of Jeju. The flight is normally about an hour, and the incident occurred as the plane was reaching the Daegu airport at an altitude of only about 700 feet.
A video apparently taken by a person on board and posted on social media shows some passengers’ hair being whipped by the air blowing into the cabin through the open door.
Among those shaken up by the incident were 48 teenage athletes heading to a national track and field meet for under-15s that kicks off Saturday in Daegu. Ten of the children were from a judo team.
An official with the Jeju Sports Council told CBS News’ Jen Kwon that eight athletes and one coach were checked at a hospital but released with no major injuries.
“The students were very startled,” he said, adding that the Red Cross had offered to provide counselling for any youngsters upset by the incident.
The club had yet to decide whether to go ahead and participate in the weekend event, but the official said it seemed unlikely given the children’s young ages — with the youngest among them only 9 or 10 years old — and the trauma caused by the inflight incident.
The Yonhap news agency quoted other passengers as saying they suffered severe ear pain after the door opened. It said some cabin crew shouted for help from passengers to prevent the door from being opened.
A total of 12 people were taken to hospitals for treatment or evaluation, according to the Transportation Ministry. Emergency officials in Daegu said the injured people mainly suffered breathing problems and other minor symptoms.
Fortunately, the incident occurred close to landing, so the flight crew had already told all passengers to put their seatbelts on.