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NTSB apologizes for intern confirming racist pilot names to TV station

By Kate Mather & Shelby Grad

Los Angeles Times

LAST UPDATED: 11:23 a.m. HST, Jul 13, 2013

LOS ANGELES » An intern at the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed to a San Francisco 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 today 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.”

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CriticalReader wrote:
This is what happens when you combine racism with gotcha media morals and principles vacuum. "Hey, let's play a practical joke and ask the NTSB to confirm these idiotic names - heck they're only asians". . . ."oooooh! They confirmed the names!!! HAHAHA run the story!!!"
on July 13,2013 | 12:11PM
808warriorfan wrote:
on July 13,2013 | 12:24PM
Anonymous wrote:
The tv station DID check ... and an intern confirmed the names ... but still, how could anyone not know those names could not possibly be right!? lol
on July 13,2013 | 01:13PM
kahu808 wrote:
Common sense would have told them otherwise. In an attempt to get the scoop, they went against all common sense.
on July 13,2013 | 03:34PM
Skyler wrote:
Well if they don't have a large Asian population, perhaps not. Except for the H L F part... wow.
on July 13,2013 | 09:25PM
Anonymous wrote:
So pathetic. If it was a frank de lima act would be hilarious, no? People need to laugh more in light of bad situations. Not one of you better act like you never get at least one chuckle out of the names.
on July 13,2013 | 12:29PM
residenttaxpayer wrote:
Yeah....but this in reference to the Asiana plane crash that killed 3 teenage girls and injured 180 others...very insensitive and cruel in light of what happened....you think the families of the deceased and the injured survivors would find this humorous?.....
on July 13,2013 | 01:15PM
RichardCory wrote:
No, those families wouldn't find it humorous. All that means is that this joke isn't for them. Humor is a reality of life, and people often find it even under tragic circumstances. Deal with it.
on July 13,2013 | 01:22PM
residenttaxpayer wrote:
I guess some people find other people's misfortune humorous.....
on July 13,2013 | 01:31PM
Pacej001 wrote:
Having been a professional pilot, I think it's just fine to ridicule the four pilots that drove a perfectly good airplane into the ground while attempting to land in near perfect conditions.
on July 13,2013 | 03:05PM
residenttaxpayer wrote:
I'm sure the families of the deceased and the injured passengers don't find comfort in that....
on July 13,2013 | 03:13PM
Pacej001 wrote:
Let's see. Is there a difference between the pilots (who flew a perfectly good airplane into the ground) and the passengers (victims of said pilots incompetence)? Answer: Yes. Sympathy for the victims. Ridicule for the dolts. Hard to see any cross over there.
on July 13,2013 | 06:19PM
Keith_Rollman wrote:
The accident isn't humorous....the idiots reading the news without thinking...that's humorous.
on July 13,2013 | 03:11PM
W15 wrote:
going to a comedy show is one thing, where one would expect to hear some edgy stuff ... but this was a news telecast, that was reporting info it had supposedly confirmed with the NTSB, the federal agency in charge of investigating the plane crash. i don't think most reasonable people would expect the new station or the NTSB to be putting out a joke like this (whether intentional or by mistake) ... or to be making light of the situation. it takes away from their credibility ... and in the case of the federal agency, our faith in their ability to do their job.
on July 13,2013 | 01:32PM
Anonymous wrote:
I have ZERO faith in ANY of or federal agencies, ZERO.
on July 13,2013 | 01:46PM
W15 wrote:
ok, i'll bite .... so what's the alternative? ... moving? ... you may be surprised to encounter the problems/bureaucracy/corruption that inhabit the governments of most other countries. but no matter what you decide, good luck to ya ... ;-)
on July 13,2013 | 01:54PM
cojef wrote:
Alternative is remove individuals who think it is funny to make humor out of a tragedy. The bureacracy led by political czar appointed by the President has been responsible for the scandalous acts perpetrated by them with impunity. They are not run of the mill regular career civil service employees. There is no need to repeat the scandals. The readers are aware of them
on July 13,2013 | 02:22PM
fshnpoi wrote:
so you didn't even crack a smile right..
on July 13,2013 | 01:23PM
Pacej001 wrote:
I hoot every time I think about it. Can't help it. At the same time I feel deeply for the dead and injured.
on July 13,2013 | 03:07PM
Hilofrank wrote:
Seriously?! All they can come up with is "racially insensitive?" This highlights the difference between Asian and African-American or Latino minorities. If the station and/or intern made "racially insensitive" statements, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would be out in the streets crying boycott or at least pay them some money for their organizations and they'll be quiet. The New Black Panther Party would be calling for a riot and looting. The station would be doing major and public mea culpas. But you don't see any of it. Asian minority groups realize it was racist, but are not going to cry out as a perpetual victim. As an American of Asian ancestry, I thought it was in bad taste but illustrates how brain dead our media outlets are. The station had multiple times and opportunities for someone to say, "Hey, I think this is a joke." But at each stage, they blew it. Says more about the media than anything else.
on July 13,2013 | 01:44PM
Pacej001 wrote:
Why was this word play, admittedly juvenile and insensitive, racists?
on July 13,2013 | 03:09PM
Keith_Rollman wrote:
Burning down a black church is racist. An elementary school joke about silly names is not. We are in danger of being prodded into a state of paranoia by politically correct fanatics for even acknowledging our cultural differences in a humorous way.
on July 13,2013 | 03:18PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
All of us in the Jablomey family, especially Uncle Heywood, agree.
on July 13,2013 | 04:35PM
Pacej001 wrote:
Bingo. We live in times where everything is racists to some.
on July 13,2013 | 06:20PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I have the greatest sympathy for all on this tragic flight and especially for the hurt and the deceased and their families. But...... "Wi Tu Low"? I am shamed to admit but I laughed out loud at that. I am a horrible person but that just struck me so funny. Buddha forgive me.
on July 13,2013 | 01:45PM
hanalei395 wrote:
"Wi Tu Low"? Michelle Wie to low? No way. She's a 6 footer.
on July 13,2013 | 02:04PM
st1d wrote:
it's called bookend flying. you pay attention to your speed and rate of climb as you takeoff. later, you pay attention to speed and rate of descent during final.

how hard can that be. other pilots do it all the time.

these pilots have earned their new handles. ask any pilot,

this is not racist. just cold hard-earned handles they will never shake off.

on July 13,2013 | 05:03PM
Skyler wrote:
I laughed - not at the tragedy - but at the absurdity. "Sum Ting Wong" alright...
on July 13,2013 | 09:24PM
Skyler wrote:
Now Asiana claims the TV station 'damaged' the airline's and the pilot's reputation. I'd say the pilots did a pretty good job of that all by themselves.
on July 13,2013 | 11:24PM
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