Skip to main content

Asiana to proceed with TV station suit, but NTSB is off the hook

By Yoonjung Seo and Ashley Fantz, CNN
updated 3:21 PM EDT, Tue July 16, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The intern is no longer with the NTSB
  • Earlier, Asiana said it would sue KTVU and the National Transportation Safety Board
  • "It's very difficult to conceive of a defamation suit prevailing here," expert says
  • The airline says it has retained a U.S. law firm

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- Asiana Airlines says it will proceed with its planned lawsuit against an Oakland, California, television station, but it's not going to pursue legal action against the National Transportation Safety Board.

Over the weekend, the Korean airline had said it would sue both entities after an intern at the NTSB mistakenly confirmed "inaccurate and offensive" names as those of the pilots of Flight 214, which crash-landed nine days ago at San Francisco International Airport.

The bogus names that phonetically spelled out phrases such as "Something Wrong" and "We Too Low" were read during KTVU's noon broadcast Friday. The airline called the report "demeaning" and said it was "reviewing possible legal action."

On Monday morning, the airline seemed to have a partial change of heart, at least concerning the NTSB.

Koreans react to false Asian pilot names
Asiana filing suit against TV station
The final moments of Flight 214
Third Asiana 214 crash victim dies

Airline spokesman Na Chul-hee said Asiana has retained a U.S. law firm to file a defamation claim against the TV station. But, he said, the company didn't have plans to file a separate suit against the NTSB.

"After a legal review, the company decided to file a lawsuit against the network because it was their report that resulted in damaging the company's image," he said.

KTVU anchor Tori Campbell read the names Friday. The news station, a CNN affiliate, later apologized on air and on its website.

"We sincerely regret the error and took immediate action to apologize, both in the newscast where the mistake occurred, as well as on our website and social media sites," according to Tom Raponi, KTVU/KICU vice president and general manager. "Nothing is more important to us than having the highest level of accuracy and integrity, and we are reviewing our procedures to ensure this type of error does not happen again."

The key to a defamation case is to determine whether what was said damages an entity's reputation and causes injury, and what care was taken, if any, to prevent that, said Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center and the dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University.

"It's very difficult to conceive of a defamation suit prevailing here," he told CNN. "Everyone who heard this understood it was a prank. And as ludicrous as the report was, at least the news station made a call to try to check."

KTVU said the names it gave were confirmed by an NTSB official in Washington before they were aired.

The NTSB apologized for the "inaccurate and offensive" names, which it said were erroneously confirmed by a summer intern. A government official with knowledge of the situation said Monday the intern is no longer with the agency.

"Earlier today, in response to an inquiry from a media outlet, a summer intern acted outside the scope of his authority when he erroneously confirmed the names of the flight crew on the aircraft," the NTSB said Friday in a statement.

Paulson notes that the real names of pilots were not given in the news report.

"Where is the real damage? Yes, it was tasteless and undoubtedly it caused some short-term emotional distress, but nothing that rises to the level of litigation," he said.

NTSB: 2 Asiana pilots call for landing to be aborted

It was not immediately clear who produced the fake names, but the NTSB said it was not the intern.

"The names were presented, by the station, to the intern for confirmation," NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said. "The intern did not make up the names and provide them to the station."

The NTSB said it does not release or confirm the identities of crew members or other people involved in transportation accidents.

"We work hard to ensure that only appropriate factual information regarding an investigation is released and deeply regret today's incident," the NTSB statement said.

The NTSB did not identify the intern, but said, "Appropriate actions will be taken to ensure that such a serious error is not repeated."

Asiana identified the pilot at the controls of the Boeing 777 that undershot its approach and clipped a seawall before crash-landing on the runway as Lee Kang-Kuk. There were two other pilots in the cockpit at the time of the accident.

Asiana Flight 214 was carrying 291 passengers and 16 crew members when it crash-landed on July 6 on the runway after striking a seawall.

Three passengers died, including a girl who died of her injuries Friday morning. More than 180 others were injured.

Did Asiana pilot have enough 777 experience?

CNN's Ashley Fantz in Atlanta and Aaron Cooper in Washington contributed reporting

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Asiana Flight 214 crash
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Pilots botched the approach and landing of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco nearly a year ago, causing a crash that killed three people and injured 187 others, investigators concluded.
updated 2:09 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
The National Transportation Safety Board held a hearing to determine the cause of the 2013 Asiana Flight 214 plane crash.
updated 1:36 PM EST, Sun January 19, 2014
A group of passengers who were aboard an Asiana Airlines flight that crash-landed has sued aircraft manufacturer Boeing.
updated 12:26 PM EDT, Sun October 20, 2013
The firefighter who accidentally ran over and killed a 16-year-old girl who survived the crash will not be charged in the case.
updated 6:29 AM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
The U.S. Department of Transportation fined Asiana Airlines $500,000 for failing to assist families following the crash of Asiana flight 214 in San Francisco in July.
updated 5:43 AM EDT, Tue July 9, 2013
The two teen girls were close friends, each looking forward to a summer trip to California to improve their English.
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Tue July 9, 2013
After 10 long hours in the sky, the Jang children couldn't wait to get off the plane.
updated 6:34 AM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
I didn't expect my 5-year-old daughter to first learn about airplane crashes while we were in the air.
updated 6:42 AM EDT, Fri July 12, 2013
Shortly after Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed in San Francisco, passengers and witnesses pleaded with 911 responders to send help -- some frantically, some insistently.
Here's what we know about the crash landing, told through animation and graphics.
updated 10:29 AM EDT, Tue July 9, 2013
As a plume of black smoke billowed from Asiana Airlines flight 214 after it crash landed, images were captured of passengers collecting their carry-on items before evacuating.
updated 3:46 PM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
Inside the cockpit of the Airbus A380 at Le Bourget airport on June 12, 2005.
Pilots will need more cockpit training to become fully certified first officers for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines.
updated 2:00 AM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
Veteran flight attendant Lee Yoon Hye sensed something was awry as Flight 214 neared the San Francisco International Airport runway.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
As Asiana Airlines Flight 214 flew into San Francisco, the Boeing 777's 219 passengers didn't know that the man at the controls had never landed this kind of plane at this airport before.
updated 9:51 AM EDT, Mon July 8, 2013
"Look at that one -- look at how his nose is up in the air."
updated 8:41 PM EDT, Sun July 7, 2013
Of the 307 people on board, only two are confirmed dead.
updated 8:36 PM EDT, Sun July 7, 2013
Nearly three hours after the crash, David Eun walked through customs at San Francisco International Airport. By then, the adrenaline rush was subsiding enough that he could begin processing the enormity of it all.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri July 19, 2013
Photos from the scene show a trail of debris down the runway and people waiting for their loved ones.
updated 8:19 PM EDT, Sun July 7, 2013
Asiana Airlines had coped with a pair of deadly crashes over the past 20 years before a Boeing 777 crash landed in San Francisco and burst into flames on Saturday.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT