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US fines Asiana for poor crash reaction

LOS ANGELES — In the first penalty of its kind, federal transportation officials on Tuesday docked Asiana Airlines $500,000 for failing to promptly contact passengers’ families and keep them informed about their loved ones after a deadly crash last year at San Francisco International airport.

The Department of Transportation said it took the South Korean airline five days to contact the families of all 291 passengers. In addition, a required crash hot line was initially routed to an automated reservations line.

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Never before has the department concluded an airline broke US laws requiring prompt and generous assistance to the loved ones of crash victims.

Three people died and dozens were injured on July 6 when Asiana Flight 214 clipped a seawall while landing. One of the victims, a 16-year-old girl, might have survived being ejected, only to be run over by a fire truck in the post-crash confusion.

Many of the families live in South Korea or China, meaning the airline was their main source of information on the crash half a world away.

‘‘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 prepared statement.

Under a consent order the airline signed with the department, Asiana will pay a $400,000 fine and get a $100,000 credit for sponsoring industry-wide conferences and training sessions.

Asiana said in the consent order its response immediately after the crash was slowed because it occurred on a holiday weekend when staffing was short.

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