Passengers aboard the Asiana Airlines Airbus A321 have described the terrifying moment a man opened the plane door mid-flight on Friday afternoon.
A passenger opened the door of the jet as it was coming in to land in Daegu, South Korea, leaving wind whipping through the plane’s cabin as terrified passengers gripped their armrests.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Terrifying moment plane door opens midair on South Korean Asiana Airlines flight.
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A video of the moment the door opened was captured by a passenger.
Passengers tried to stop the 33-year-old man from opening the door, local outlet Yonhap News Agency reported.
Cabin crew reportedly shouted for help from passengers to prevent the door from being opened.
He was sitting in the emergency seat and opened the door when the aircraft was about 700 feet (213 m) above the ground and about two to three minutes from landing in the city 150 miles (240 km) south of Seoul, an airline official said.
The plane landed safely, company officials told CNN.
Witnesses told Yonhap the man attempted to jump out after opening the door.
“Flight attendants shouted for help from male passengers and people all around clung to him and pulled him in,” a witness said.
Among the passengers were 48 elementary and middle-school-aged athletes scheduled to compete in a national sports event on Saturday in the nearby city of Ulsan.
“Children quivered and cried in panic,” the mother of one of the athletes said. “Those sitting near the exit must have been shocked the most.”
“It was chaos with people close to the door appearing to faint one by one and flight attendants calling out for doctors onboard through broadcasting while others were running down the aisle in panic,” a 44-year-old passenger said.
“I thought the plane was blowing up. I thought I was going to die like this,” he said.
A total of 200 people were on board, including 194 passengers, according to Asiana Airlines.
Of these passengers, 12 people suffered minor injuries from hyperventilation and nine of them have been sent to hospitals in Daegu, a spokesperson for the Daegu Fire Department said.
Some reported ear pain as a result of the incident.
Man taken into custody
The 33-year-old man has been arrested over the incident, local police said. He reportedly confessed to opening the door, but would not say why he did it.
Police said he was not drunk at the time of detention, but remained tight-lipped about why he did so.
“It is difficult to have a normal conversation with him,” an official told Yonhap. “We will investigate the motive of the crime and punish him.”
Police said he was travelling alone.
South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport confirmed they are investigating an individual over violation of aviation law.
Any person who contravenes the Aviation Security Act, which includes passengers operating doors, exits, or equipment inside an aircraft, could be prosecuted and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, the statement said.
The ministry also said that it had dispatched an aviation safety supervisor to the site to check whether there was an abnormality in aircraft maintenance.
The aircraft was identified on the Flightradar 24 tracking website as an Airbus 321.
The jet was on a flight from Jeju island, off South Korea’s southern coast, to Daegu.
Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas of Airline Ratings described the incident as “very bizarre.”
“Technically, it’s not possible to open those doors in flight,” he told CNN.
The landing speed of an A321 is about 150 knots (172 mph), Thomas said, meaning winds of that speed are passing the aircraft.
The door, behind the wing of the aircraft, opened into that airstream, he said.
“It seems implausible that the door could be opened in the first place and then against the airstream technically impossible, but somehow or another it has happened,” Thomas said.
“The airplane is automatically set to adjust the pressure of the cabin according to the altitude of the aircraft,” a spokesperson for Asiana Airlines said.
“When the aircraft is high up in the air, it is impossible to open the door.
“But when the altitude is low and close to landing, the door can be opened.”
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