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NTSB intern fired over Asiana names

| Monday, July 15, 2013, 9:18 p.m.
In this July 14, 2013 photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a student survivor of an Asiana Airlines jetliner that crash landed in San Francisco on July 6, along with her parents arrives at Jiangshan Middle School in Jiangshan, east China's Zhejiang province. Students and teachers from Jiangshan Middle School who traveled with a 34-member group to the U.S. to attend a summer camp arrived home on Sunday. Three Chinese students were killed in the fatal crash, two of which died on the spot and another from injuries sustained from the accident. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Wang Dingchang) NO SALES

The National Transportation Safety Board intern who apparently confirmed the fake, racially insensitive names of the pilots flying the ill-fated Asiana Airlines Flight 214 is “no longer with the agency,” CNN reported on Monday.

CNN cited “a government official with knowledge of the situation.”

In an email to the Los Angeles Times, NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said the agency does not “discuss or disclose information relating to personnel matters” but “has taken appropriate action to deal with the situation.”

“In addition,” Nantel wrote, “we are reviewing our policies and procedures to determine where we might be able to strengthen them so that this kind of situation doesn't happen again.”

After Bay Area television station KTVU aired a broadcast on Friday including four incorrect pilot names — such as “Captain Sum Ting Wong” and “Wi Tu Lo” — attributing the information to the NTSB, the agency said that “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 apologized for the “inaccurate and offensive names that were mistakenly confirmed.”

“The NTSB does not release or confirm the names of crewmembers or people involved in transportation accidents to the media,” the agency said. “We work hard to ensure that only appropriate factual information regarding an investigation is released and deeply regret today's incident.”

The station apologized after the noon report aired.

Anchor Frank Somerville read another apology on the station's evening broadcast that was also posted to its website, saying “even with this statement from the NTSB, KTVU accepts full responsibility for this mistake.”

“First, we never read the names out loud, phonetically sounding them out,” the statement said. “Then, during our phone call to the NTSB where the person confirmed the spellings of the names, we never asked that person to give us their position with the agency. We heard this person verify the information without questioning who they were and then rushed the names on our noon newscast.”

“Words cannot adequately express the outrage we … feel over KTVU's on-air blunder that made a mockery of the Asiana Airlines tragedy,” wrote Asian American Journalists Association President Paul Cheung and MediaWatch Chair Bobby Caina Calvan. “We are embarrassed for the anchor, who was as much a victim as KTVU's viewers and KTVU's hard-working staff.”

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