A man on an Asiana Airlines jet opened an emergency exit door mid-flight, terrifying passengers on board just minutes before they safely landed in South Korea.
Some passengers tried but failed to restrain the man in his 30s, who managed to open the door while the aircraft was about 700 feet from the ground. Crews didn't intervene because of the plane's proximity to landing, witnesses said.
Video from inside the jet showed passengers gripping their seats' armrests as some people's hair whipped around due to the strong wind barreling through the cabin.
Police detained the man once the plane landed safely with its door still open. They said he admitted to opening the door but wouldn't give a reason why.
According to South Korea's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, the Aviation Security Act bars passengers from operating doors or equipment inside the plane, and if prosecuted, violators could face up to 10 years in prison.
Of the 200 people aboard the less than hour-long flight, 12 had minor injuries, and nine were sent to hospitals, the ministry said. Those injured suffered breathing problems. Local media reported some other passengers fainted, and others said they had severe ear pain.
There were 48 elementary and middle school athletes on the plane who were headed to a national track and field competition. The mother of one child said they "quivered and cried in panic," Yonhap news agency reported.
Details of the incident, including whether Asiana Airlines followed exit management protocols, are under investigation, a ministry official said.
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