Debris from the crashed Asiana Airlines freighter is pulled out from the sea during a salvage operation, Efforts are under way to find the black box of the Jumbo jet that went down off Jeju on July 28. (Yonhap)
By Oh Young-jin
The mystery over the crash of an Asiana Airlines freighter near Jeju on July 27 is growing as it was revealed that the pilot of the 747 jumbo jet was heavily in debt.
The investigation team formed by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, said Friday that there was “circumstantial evidence” about the pilot being in debt.
“The financial matters are extremely private and we have to be very careful to link it with the crash,” Cho Tae-hwan, chief of the investigation team, was quoted as saying by Yonhap.
The acknowledgement came after reports that the 52-year-old, listed missing, had big outstanding debts with a signifcant monthly interest payment.
“We understand that much of the debt comes from his guarantees of loans taken out by his relatives,” an Asiana spokesman said.
The pilot had two children both in college and served as an Air Force pilot before joining Asiana. “His integrity was well respected,” the spokesman said.
The revelation fueled speculation that it was not an accident but a suicide mission aimed at gaining a great deal of insurance money.
Just before the crash, the pilot bought policies that could give the surviving family about 3 billion won.
Colleagues rebutted it, arguing that his pay was about 200 million won a year and buying big policies is not out of the ordinary among them.
But the argument didn’t go far because of a failure to locate a black box or in-flight data recorder.
“As soon as the weather situation calms, we will mobilize more equipment to locate the black box,” the Asiana official said. “It will solve all problems.”
According to some sources, the pilot’s family is planning to file defamation suits against financial institutions that leaked personal information.
They claimed that some insurance firms leaked information in order to avoid or minimize payment.
The life of the pilot has been insured together with the aircraft so the pilot’s family is entitled to $100,000. The lost 747 is fully insured.
Meanwhile, Asiana relayed a statement late afternoon from the pilot’s family, rebutting the report and collaboratory remarks by the investigation team.
“The amount of the outstanding debts is miniscule and the reported amount is totally groundless,” the family claimed.
They would take legal action against news media outlets for false reports, the statement said.
제주도 인근 해상에서 추락한 아시아나항공 화물기의 기장이 사고 직전 상당의 빚이 있는 것으로 충격을 주고 있다.
금요일 국토해양부에 의하면 조종사가 빚이 있었다는 정황상 증거가 있는 것 같다.
그러나 조태환 국토해양부 조사팀장은 한 개인의 재정상태는 사적인 문제이며 이것을 추락 사고와 연계시키는 것에 대해서는 정말 신중해야한다고 말했다.
조팀장의 이러한 발언은 실종된 52세 아시아나 조종사가 매달 많은 이자를 지급하는 상당한 빚이 있다는 다수의 언론 보도 후 나온 것이서 주목된다.