An intern at the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed to a Bay Area television station fake, racially insensitive names of the pilots flying the ill-fated Asiana Airlines Flight 214.
The segment on Friday at noon that referred to two of the pilots as “Captain Sum Ting Wong,” and “Wi Tu Lo,” has gone viral and drawn heavy criticism on the Internet.
Late Friday, the NTSB apologized for the incident. “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 in a statement.
“The NTSB does not release or confirm the names of crewmembers or people involved in transportation accidents to the media. We work hard to ensure that only appropriate factual information regarding an investigation is released and deeply regret today’s incident. Appropriate actions will be taken to ensure that such a serious error is not repeated,” the statement added.
It remains unclear how the station got the names in the first place.
Two teenage girls from China and another passenger were killed and more than 180 people injured when the Boeing 777 clipped a sea wall and slammed into a runway Saturday at San Francisco International Airport.
Asiana Airlines has identified the pilot and copilot as Lee Kang-kook and Lee Jung-min.
The KTVU newscast was captured in a video posted to YouTube, in which the station displayed four incorrect pilot names on the screen and an anchor read them aloud.
“The NTSB has confirmed these are the names of the pilots aboard Flight 214 when it crashed,” the anchor said. “We are working to determine exactly what roles each of them played during the landing on Saturday.”
Another YouTube video showed an apology, read by the same anchor.
“These names were not accurate despite an NTSB official in Washington confirming them late this morning,” the anchor said. “We apologize for this error.”
The station issued a statement Friday afternoon acknowledging it had “misidentified the pilots involved.”
“Prior to air, the names were confirmed by an NTSB official in the agency’s Washington, D.C., office,” the statement posted on the station’s website said. “Despite that confirmation, KTVU realized the names that aired were not accurate and issued an apology later in the newscast.”
“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,” Tom Raponi, KTVU/KICU vice president and general manager, said in the statement. “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.”