(NEW YORK) — A passenger sitting next to the man on the Asiana Airlines flight who opened an emergency exit door in mid-air has spoken out about those terrifying moments on the plane.
Lee Yoon-Joon told the Yonhap News Agency that he initially didn’t have a good impression of his seatmate, claiming the man gave off a “bad vibe.”
After the man opened the door, Lee said he jumped into action, pulling the man back with the help of the flight attendants. Initially, they said they thought a mechanical malfunction had caused the door to open.
“Frankly speaking, I thought, ‘Am I going to die?"” Lee recalled. “A million things were on my mind at that moment.”
Lee said it became hard to breathe with the door open and the wind was like a “disaster movie.” Other passengers on the plane were crying, he said.
“I am an ordinary citizen and did what the flight attendant told me,” he added.
Dramatic video shows Lee, wearing red shorts, and his fellow passengers getting blasted by the high-speed wind through the open door in the final minutes of the flight.
“Air would be rushing by the airplane just outside,” Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who was not on the flight, told ABC News, speaking to what the passengers would have experienced once the door was opened. “At that speed, about 160 miles an hour, from all indications, that would be the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane-scale speed.”
Experts say the door was only able to open because of the plane’s altitude.
The plane, an Airbus A321-200, was about 700 feet above the ground as it prepared to land at Daegu International Airport in South Korea, Transport Ministry officials said. At cruising altitude, experts say, the pressure in the plane would have made it impossible to open the exit door.
Asiana Airlines said in a statement that it has since stopped selling emergency exit seats on certain planes as a safety precaution.
Twelve passengers on board were taken to the hospital for respiratory issues and other minor symptoms after the flight landed following the May 26 incident. They’ve since all been released.
Police said the suspect, who was arrested Sunday and faces up to 10 years in prison for violating aviation security laws, is “mentally struggling.” During preliminary questioning, the 33-year-old told police he felt like was suffocating and wanted to get off the plane quickly. The suspect had recently lost a job and was under stress when the incident occurred, according to police.
There were 194 people on board the aircraft, including a group of teenage athletes on their way to a track and field competition, according to Asiana Airlines.
Ahead of his court appearance, the suspect told reporters, “I’m really sorry to the kids.”
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