San Francisco Baggage Handler Charged With Stealing Luggage After Asiana Crash

Robert Jonathan

An airline baggage handler and his fiancee allegedly stole luggage in the aftermath of the Asiana Airlines crash landing.

Flight 214 from Seoul, South Korea crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6 when it hit a seawall in front of the runway, resulting in three fatalities and about 200 injuries. Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies are probing the crash.

The tragic incident also created a chaotic situation for other travelers and their luggage. "In some cases, incoming flights were diverted to other airports in California. Passengers' bags sometimes made it to San Francisco before they did, leading to a pileup of luggage," CNN reports.

The United Airlines customer service representative and his fiancee (who is identified as his wife in some media accounts) allegedly tried to take advantage of the situation according to the San Jose Mercury News. "[The worker] was caught on surveillance video stealing the baggage and handing it off to his wife, who then returned some of the clothing in the luggage to a Nordstrom department store for a $5,000 payout, [San Mateo County] Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said."

District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe added that it hasn't yet been established as to whether the theft was an "ongoing practice" or an isolated incident of opportunism following the tumult of the Asiana crash.

Police also searched the couple's home and reportedly found additional bags belonging to passengers. Prosecutors have charged them with grand theft and burglary. Both were released after posting bail and could face up to five years in prison if convicted. The alleged baggage bandits are due back in court on August 26.

In a statement released today, United Airlines said that "We hold our employees to the highest standard and have zero tolerance for any theft. We are assisting the San Francisco Police Department in this investigation, and this employee has been held out of service."