US & Canada

Crash airline Asiana sues KTVU for bogus pilot names

In this undated handout from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Asiana Airlines flight 214 is seen at at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California.
Image caption KTVU said it had failed to read the names out phonetically before broadcast

The airline at the centre of a San Francisco plane crash that killed three people says it will sue a broadcaster for mistakenly airing fake pilot names.

Asiana Airlines says KTVU damaged the airline's reputation with the "racially discriminatory report" against Asians and will file a lawsuit in the US.

The bogus names were erroneously confirmed by a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) intern.

But the airline has said it will not sue the NTSB.

"We decided to sue KTVU because Asiana Airlines thinks their news defames our pilots and our company's reputation," Ki-won Suh, an Asiana spokesman, said on Monday.

A presenter on the Fox affiliate in Oakland, California, read the fake names on air on Friday.

The broadcast featured an on-screen graphic showing the names and a photo of Flight 214's wreckage on the runway.

Apparently meant to be humorous, the fake Asian-sounding names - which included Sum Ting Wong and Bang Ding Ow - resembled phrases in English when read out phonetically.

The presenter apologised for the error after a commercial break. But video of the report had already begun to spread across the internet.

It is not clear how the gaffe originated, but the NTSB said one of its interns mistakenly confirmed the names in good faith when contacted by someone at KTVU. It appears that the TV station was somehow hoaxed.

The agency says it does not release names of pilots or crew members involved in transportation accidents.

However, the airline had already released the names of two of the pilots days before the KTVU report.

"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 in a statement. It added that "appropriate actions" would be taken to prevent a reoccurrence.

An unnamed official told CNN that the intern in question was no longer with the NTSB.

KTVU also issued an apology: "We made several mistakes when we received this information. First, we never read the names out loud, phonetically sounding them out.

"Then, during our phone call to the NTSB where the person confirmed the spellings of the names, we never asked that person to give us their position with the agency."

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