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KTVU fires three over Asiana Airlines pilot gaffe

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San Francisco FOX affiliate KTVU-TV has fired three employees stemming from an investigation into an erroneous and embarrassing report broadcast on July 12.

Three producers — Brad Belstock, Christina Gastelu and Roland DeWolk — were let go by the station on Saturday, San Francisco media journalist Rich Lieberman reported.

The employees were let go following an investigation into a July 12 newscast in which news presenter Tori Campbell misidentified four pilots aboard a plane that crashed at San Francisco International Airport as Captain Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk and Bang Ding Ow.

An on-air retraction follow the report in which Campbell claimed the station had confirmed the names with an official at the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington. The official was a summer intern, the NTSB later said.

Asiana Airlines, the operator of the plane that crashed at the airport on July 6, had threatened to sue KTVU over the report, claiming the gaffe caused damage to its reputation. Shortly after hiring a U.S.-based law firm, the airliner reversed its decision to file a lawsuit.

On Saturday, The Desk reported that Belstock was the producer on duty when the erroneous names were read. Belstock, who had worked at KTVU for seven years, included “making necessary phone calls to confirm information with sources” and “ordering and creating appropriate graphics for stories” as some of his responsibilities at the station.

Minutes after the names were read on-air, Belstock tweeted “Oh sh*t.” Hours later, his Twitter profile was deleted.

Gastelu was the executive producer for special projects at KTVU. DeWolk was an investigative producer at the station. It is unclear what role both played in the Asiana Airlines gaffe that led to their termination.

Lieberman, citing an unidentified source, said the firings came after a “major” investigation by KTVU’s parent company Cox Media Group. More firings were possible as the investigation continues, Lieberman reported.

On Friday, KTVU began submitting copyright infringement notices with YouTube seeking the removal of videos depicting the erroneous report. Two videos uploaded by The Desk to a YouTube account were among those initially removed. On Tuesday, both videos were restored after The Desk filed counter-notifications with the service.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.