A passenger aboard an Asiana Airlines flight from Jeju Island to the South Korean city of Daegu was apparently in a rush to deplane, opening the door just minutes before landing.
A 33-year-old male seated next to an emergency exit reportedly forced open the door on an Airbus A321-200, which was carrying 194 souls including 48 primary and middle school children on their way to a sporting event.
When the door was opened, the plane was roughly 700 feet off the ground and traveling about 170 mph, reported Reuters.
Baek Hyunwoo, a spokesman for the airline, indicated the feat would normally be impossible owing to the difference in air pressure inside and outside the cabin; however, at the lower altitude, there was only a slight difference in air pressure.
Since the plane was descending, the flight attendants were reportedly buckled up and seated too far away to make a swift intervention.
Footage of the incident taken by another passenger shows strapped-down passengers holding on for dear life, with daylight and powerful gusts flooding the cabin.
Another video of the incident shows the plane door ajar and various garments flapping in the wind.
According to Sky News, some passengers suffered extreme ear pain after the door was opened.
One 44-year-old passenger told the Yonhap News Agency, “I thought the plane was going to explode. … It looked like passengers next to the open door were fainting.”
The mother of one of the schoolchildren aboard the plane said, “The children were shaking, crying, and frightened. Those sitting near the exit must have been shocked the most.”
Despite the open door, the plane managed to land safely. There were no casualties.
Twelve people, all but one of whom were between the ages of 11 and 16, reportedly hyperventilated. Nine were taken to a hospital.
Kim Hyeong-su, an officer in the criminal affairs division of the Daegu Dongbu Police Station, indicated the man accused of opening the door could face charges of violating aviation security laws, reported the New York Times.
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