NTSB red-faced after name gaffe by intern
Phonetic versions regarded as racially insulting
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued an apology after an intern at the agency confirmed the wrong names for the pilots of Asiana Flight 214 – which crashed July 6 at San Francisco International Airport – with a California TV station.
KTVU anchor Tori Campbell read the names during a story in the station’s noon broadcast on Friday and later had to issue a retraction, noting that the names had been confirmed “by an NTSB official.”
"We Too Low"
When read phonetically, the phony names resulted in “Something Wrong” and “Wee Too Low.” KTVU officials said the names were not sounded out prior to the broadcast. They did not reveal how the station originally acquired the information.
The station said it was sorry for the error: “We have a lot of good people here at KTVU Channel 2. We pride ourselves on getting it right and having the highest of standards and integrity. Clearly, on Friday, that didn't happen. So again, from everyone here at KTVU, we offer our sincerest apology."
Names confirmed by a summer intern
“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,” according to a statement released by the NTSB on Friday. “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.”
There was no mention of whether or not the intern was still with the NTSB.
Legal action to follow
Asiana Airline has announced that it will sue KTVU on the grounds of defamation for airing the phony names.
"This legal action is being taken because of the KTVU report that not only disparaged Asians in general through the use of racially charged epithets, but also severely damaged the reputation of Asiana Airlines," the company said in a statement.
The NTSB, which normally releases only brief statements in the initial days of an accident investigation, has been criticized in the wake of the Flight 214 crash for disclosing information about the pilot’s lack of experience on the type of aircraft involved and details garnered from the “black box” recovered from the wreckage.
“It is imperative that safety investigators refrain from prematurely releasing the information from on-board recording devices,” said the Air Line Pilots Association in a statement. “We have seen in the past that publicizing this data before all of it can be collected and analyzed leads to erroneous conclusions that can actually interfere with the investigative process.”