The unexpected opening of an emergency exit door on an Asiana Airlines plane that landed on Friday in Daegu, South Korea, shocked the passengers, and nine of them were hospitalized after they experienced difficulty breathing.
The police arrested a man in his 30s on suspicion of forcing the door open. The suspect, who may face charges of violating aviation security laws, did not reveal a motive, said Kim Hyeong-su, an officer in the criminal affairs division of the Daegu Dongbu Police Station.
The plane, which left Jeju Island at 11:58 a.m., was at an altitude of 700 feet and minutes from landing at 12:38 p.m., when a person sitting in the emergency exit row next to the door forced it open, a spokesman for the airline said. According to FlightAware, the plane was traveling about 170 miles per hour at that point in the flight.
Usually when an airplane is in mid-flight, the difference in air pressure inside and outside the cabin prevents the doors from opening. But the plane was so close to the ground that the difference was small, allowing the door not to open, said the airline’s spokesman, Baek Hyunwoo.
The crew could not stop the man because the nearest flight attendant was sitting too far away to reach him in time, and everyone on board – crew and passengers – had to wear safety belts when landing, he added.
The plane landed safely, Mr. Baek said, and there was no major damage to the 194 passengers and six crew members. But 12 people – all but one of them between the ages of 11 and 16 – had hyperventilated, a spokesman for the Daegu Fire and Safety Department said. Nine of them were taken to nearby hospitals.