The passenger on an Asiana Airlines flight who opened an emergency exit door as the plane came in to land in South Korea told police he did it because he was feeling suffocated and wanted to disembark quickly.
The man in his 30s opened the emergency door on Friday when the Airbus A321 was about 213 metres (700 feet) above the ground as it was landing at Daegu International Airport, causing panic onboard.
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“During [police] questioning, the man told officials that he had been under a lot of stress after losing his job recently and that he opened the door because he wanted to get off quickly after feeling suffocated,” South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported on Saturday.
A Daegu police detective was quoted as saying: “He felt the flight was taking longer than it should have been and felt suffocated inside the cabin.”
Police sought an arrest warrant for the detained man on Saturday for violation of the Aviation Security Act and other offences, Yonhap said. Officials gave the man’s surname as Lee but not his full name, as is usual custom.
Nine passengers were sent to the hospital with breathing issues following the incident, which left many passengers terrified. All were released after about two hours.
Video footage apparently taken by a person on board and posted on social media showed passengers’ hair being whipped about by air rushing into the cabin when the emergency door opened.
It is still unclear how Lee was able to open the emergency-exit door mid-flight.
Jin Seong-hyun, a former Korean Air cabin safety official, said as far as he knew this case was unprecedented, although passengers have opened emergency exits without authorisation while planes were on the ground.
A South Korean transport ministry official said it was possible to open emergency exits at or near ground level because the pressures inside and outside the cabin were similar.