A Bizarre Asiana 214 Newscast, and an NTSB Apology

Summer intern blamed for confirming racially insensitive names.

KTVU video screenshot

KTVU video screenshot

In one of the more peculiar episodes to emerge from an air crash investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board on Friday issued a red-faced apology after a San Francisco television station fell victim to a prank and broadcasted “inaccurate and offensive” names of the pilots aboard Asiana Flight 214.

The strangeness began when a KTVU-TV news anchor went on the air with an “exclusive” that turned out to be an inane joke about the crash of Flight 214. Here’s a transcript from the broadcast:

“We have new information also on the plane crash. KTVU has just learned the names of the four pilots who were on board the flight. They are Captain Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, [a name we won’t repeat here] and Bang Ding Ow. The NTSB has confirmed these are the names of the pilots on board Flight 214 when it crashed. We are working to determine exactly what roles each of them played during the landing on Saturday.”

If you sound out those names, you’ll realize they make up a racially insensitive joke. The television station quickly issued an apology on its website, and followed up by providing a link to another apology, this one from the NTSB for confirming the names to the station in the first place.

The statement read: “The National Transportation Safety Board apologizes for inaccurate and offensive names that were mistakenly confirmed as those of the pilots of Asiana Flight 214, which crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6. 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 KTVU anchor read the names aloud during a noon broadcast on July 12 without seeming to grasp their farcical nature. The television station said a producer confirmed only the spelling of the names with the NTSB intern and did not say the names aloud. The NTSB’s policy is never to release pilot names in the course of an accident investigation.

Making this story even stranger, Asiana Airlines yesterday announced it will sue the television station for defamation on the basis that the false report damaged its reputation.

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