South Korea is holding a passenger after the door of an Asiana plane was opened in mid-air

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean police on Friday arrested a man who opened the door of an Asiana Airlines (020560.KS) flight minutes before it was scheduled to land in Daegu, causing panic among passengers and officials. He said.

The Airbus A321-200 landed safely at around 12:40 pm (0340 GMT). The airport’s flight schedule showed it had departed from the holiday island of Jeju an hour earlier.

A Daegu fire department official said nine passengers, all teenagers, were taken to hospital after suffering breathing problems.

“I thought the plane was going to explode… Passengers next to the open door seemed to faint,” an unidentified 44-year-old passenger told Yonhap News Agency.

The passenger said the flight crew made an announcement on the plane asking if there were any doctors on board.

A televised video, said to have been shot by a passenger, showed the moments before landing, with the door opening and the wind gusting as passengers sat nearby.

The Department of Transportation said in a statement that police had arrested the man who opened the door and that authorities were investigating violations of aviation safety laws.

A Transportation Ministry official told Reuters that authorities are examining whether Asiana Airlines followed protocols for managing emergency exits.

The official said it was possible to open the emergency exit when the plane was close to the ground because the pressure inside and outside the cabin was similar.

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An Asiana spokesperson said the plane was two or three minutes away from landing when the passenger seated next to the emergency exit opened a flap and pulled a lever until the door opened on the plane about 200 meters (656 ft) off the ground.

The spokesman said all passengers were seated with seat belts fastened as the plane was about to land.

After the crash, photos showed an emergency door opened near the left wing of the aircraft and a deployed escape slide slid away from it.

“It’s especially dangerous during landing and takeoff, so someone on the plane should have stopped that passenger,” said Son Myung-hwan, a professor at the Department of Aviation Maintenance at Sehan University, South Korea.

“To me, it seems difficult for the airline to escape any potential liability here,” he said.

(Reporting by Jo Min Park, Soo Hyang Choi, Hyunsoo Yum; Editing by Jerry Doyle and Jason Neely

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