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U.S. Fines Asiana Airlines $500K for Not Helping Victims’ Families

The United States has fined South Korea-based Asiana Airlines $500,000 for violating federal law in failing to support passengers and their families after the crash of Flight 214 in San Francisco last July.

U.S. Department of Transportation said it was the first time a fine has been issued under the statute which requires foreign airlines to adhere to a “family assistance plan.” That plan includes provisions that the airline must publicize and staff a toll-free number to take calls from families of passengers and must notify the families as soon as the identities of passengers are verified.

“The last thing families and passengers should have to worry about at such a stressful time is how to get information from their carrier,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

The Asiana flight hit a seawall in front of the runway during its final approach at San Francisco International Airport then slammed into the ground before cartwheeling and coming to a smoky stop.

The impact tore open the rear of the plane, tossing out three flight attendants and their seats and scattered pieces of the Boeing 777 across the runway.

The July 6, 2013 crash killed three Chinese teens and injured more than 200 others out of 307 people aboard.

One of those Chinese teens, Ye Meng Yuan, 16, survived the crash but was killed by an emergency vehicle during the rescue, an autopsy revealed. Her parents have filed a claim against the city of San Francisco.

According to the U.S. DOT, Asiana failed to widely publicize any telephone number for family members to learn about the crash, with only the airline’s toll-free reservations line generally available.

And finding even that number on Asiana’s website “required significant effort,” the DOT said.

Callers then had to navigate through “cumbersome automated menus” before speaking to an airline employee.

Asiana Airlines has not commented on the fine, and a representative of the company was not immediately available to NBC News.

Image: Asiana Flight 214
An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 plane is seen after it crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport in California. JED JACOBSOHN / Reuters file