TV station KTVU fires three over botched names of Asiana Airlines pilots

July 25, 2013

A San Francisco area TV station has reportedly fired three producers over the misreporting of the names of pilots involved in an airline crash, a gaffe that brought international attention and embarrassment to the station after a clip of the incident went viral.

The station, KTVU of Oakland, Calif., apologized after it identified the pilots in the July 6 crash of an Asiana Airlines jet as “Sum Ting Wong,” “Bang Ding Ow” and two other fictitious names many considered racially insensitive. The crash at San Francisco International Airport left three passengers dead and injured dozens.

The station said it “confirmed” the names with the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington before airing them on a noon broadcast July 12. The NTSB said the names were confirmed by a summer intern, who was promptly dismissed.

A person familiar with the reporting of the names told The Washington Post earlier this month that the information was given to the station by “a trusted source” who had provided accurate information previously. The person had described the chain of events as “a comedy of errors” involving a number of people at the station.

KTVU, which is owned by Atlanta-based Cox Communications and is a Fox affiliate, dismissed three journalists late Wednesday over the episode, according to a station source. The employees were identified as investigative producer Roland DeWolk, special projects producer Cristina Gastelu and producer Brad Belstock.

Citing copyright law, the station reportedly has asked YouTube to remove clips of its broadcast of the fake names.

Station officials did not respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.

Asiana initially said it was considering a defamation lawsuit against the station and the NTSB, but it has apparently decided not to pursue the matter.

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post's media reporter.
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