The man who opened an emergency exit door during a flight in South Korea was formally arrested on Sunday and faces up to 10 years in prison on one charge of violating aviation safety law, authorities said.
During a preliminary questioning, the 33-year-old man told investigators he felt suffocated and tried to get off the plane quicklyaccording to the police.
Twelve people were slightly injured on Friday after he opened the door of an Asiana Airlines Airbus A321-200, causing air to explode inside the cabin and terrify passengers. Some testified that they suffered severe ear pain and saw others screaming and crying.. A video shared on social media shows passengers’ hair being whipped around by air blowing into the cabin.
Usually, the emergency exit doors cannot be opened mid-flight due to the difference in air pressure inside and outside the aircraft. But during the incident on Friday, the man managed to open the door probably because the plane was flying low while preparing to land and there was not much difference in pressure, according to Asiana Airlines officials.
The Ministry of Transport said that the plane was at 700 feet (213 meters) when the man opened the door. The plane was preparing to land in Daegu on a one-hour flight from the southern island of Jeju with 200 people on board. They included teenage athletes on their way to a track meet, according to Asiana Airlines.
On Sunday, a district court in Daegu approved a warrant to formally arrest the man. Police earlier applied for the arrest warrant, citing the seriousness of the crime and the possibility that the man was on the run, according to Daegu police.
“I wanted to get off the plane soon,” said the man, whose face was covered by a black hoodie, cap and mask, to reporters in court ahead of his arrest warrant review. “I feel so sorry for the children,” she said, likely referring to teenage athletes.
Daegu police said they have up to 20 days to investigate the man before determining whether to send him to prosecutors for a possible indictment.
If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for violating aviation security law that prohibits passengers from operating entry doors, emergency exit doors and other equipment on board.according to the Ministry of Transport.
Daegu police said the man, surnamed Lee, told them he was under stress after recently losing a job and wanted to get off the plane soon because he felt suffocated just before landing.
People who were taken to hospitals were mainly treated for minor problems, such as breathing difficulties.
Asiana Airlines said in a statement that as of Sunday, it stopped the sale of emergency exit seats on its 200-seat A174-321 and 200-seat A195-321 aircraft as a safety measure. Lee was sitting near the emergency exit, airline officials said.
(with information from AP)
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