KTVU reportedly fires three producers for Asiana pilot name gaffe

The wreckage of the Asiana Airlines Flight 214
(John G. Mabanglo / EPA)

Bay Area news station KTVU-TV has dismissed three producers in the wake of an anchor reading fake, racially insensitive names for the pilots flying the ill-fated Asiana Airlines Flight 214.

San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross reported that sources confirmed investigative producer Roland DeWolk, special projects producer Cristina Gastelu and producer Brad Belstock were all fired after an in-house investigation into the now-infamous broadcast earlier this month. A fourth producer, Elvin Sledge, said he was leaving for health reasons, the Chronicle reported.

Calls to KTVU were not returned Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.


The segment in question aired July 12 and referred to all four pilots with racially insensitive names, including “Captain Sum Ting Wong,” and “Wi Tu Lo.” It quickly drew heavy criticism and a video clip of the newscast went viral on YouTube.

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 at San Francisco International Airport on July 6.

Asiana Airlines has identified the pilot and copilot as Lee Kang-kook and Lee Jung-min.

In the newscast, 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.”

In an on-air apology, anchor Frank Somerville read a statement acknowledging that the station made several mistakes.

Somerville did not say how exactly the station got the names.

But “we never read the names out loud, phonetically sounding them out,” he said.

The NTSB eventually acknowledged that a summer intern confirmed the names to KTVU when a reporter from the station called about them.

“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 crew members 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.

Somerville said the station didn’t properly verify who at the NTSB was confirming the names.

Asiana Airlines considered suing the station following the report, but later opted against it.


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