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South Korea Expresses Regret to China over Airline Crash Deaths

  • Daniel Schearf

South Korea's President Park Geun-hye, June 6, 2013. (File)

South Korea's President Park Geun-hye, June 6, 2013. (File)

South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye has sent a letter of regret to her Chinese counterpart over a Korean airliner crash in California that took the lives of two Chinese. While the investigation is looking at the possibility of pilot error, the head of Asiana Airlines has rejected suggestions that the pilots lacked experience.

South Korean president Park Geun-Hye offered condolences to the families of two Chinese teenage girls who died in the crash of Asiana Airlines flight 214.

More than half of the 300-some passengers and crew were injured in Saturday's crash-landing at San Francisco International Airport, some critically.

The two 16-year-olds were the only fatalities and found outside of the plane, which caught fire as it skidded down the runway.

An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 plane is seen in this aerial image after it crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport, July 6, 2013.

An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 plane is seen in this aerial image after it crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport, July 6, 2013.

U.S. investigators say one of the victims may have been run over by an emergency vehicle responding to the crash.

Speaking ahead of a Tuesday Cabinet meeting in Seoul, President Park urged a full investigation into what caused the tragedy.

She says they have to be thorough in finding the cause of the incident and do their best to ensure safety problems will no longer occur.

The South Korean president on Monday sent a letter expressing regret over the deaths to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The investigation has focused on the possibility of pilot error.

Investigators say the plane landed too slowly and the tail slammed into a sea-wall ahead of the runway and broke off.

Asiana Airlines confirmed the pilot had only 43 hours of flying time on the type of plane involved, a Boeing 777, and it was his first time landing the craft in San Francisco.

The Korean airline also confirmed the pilot was being guided by a trainer who had just received his training license in June.

Yoon Young-doo (C), President and CEO of the Asiana Airlines, attends a news conference at the company's head office in Seoul, July 9, 2013.

Yoon Young-doo (C), President and CEO of the Asiana Airlines, attends a news conference at the company's head office in Seoul, July 9, 2013.

But at a packed press conference at the airline's headquarters in Seoul, company president Yoon Young-doo defended the pilots' experience.

He says Lee Jung-min, the instructor pilot, has flown to San Francisco 33 times in total and is an excellent pilot. Lee Kang-kook, who was the pilot, has flown to San Francisco 29 times when he was co-pilot of a 747, he says, and also did an excellent job as a pilot of 320s and 737s.

The head of Asiana was leaving Tuesday for the United States to meet with the National Transportation Safety Board.

U.S. and Korean investigators are working together on the crash. Asiana is Korea's second largest airline after Korean Air.

Asiana's last passenger plane crash was in 1993 when a Boeing 737 crashed into a mountain south of Seoul in bad weather, killing 66 people.

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