Plane crashes into Pa­cific la­goon

Air Ni­ug­ini pas­sen­gers swim for lives in Mi­crone­sia isle

Global Times - Weekend - - WORLD -

Pas­sen­gers were forced to swim for their lives Fri­day when an air­liner ditched into a la­goon af­ter miss­ing the run­way on a re­mote Pa­cific is­land and be­gan sink­ing.

The Air Ni­ug­ini Boe­ing 737800 was at­tempt­ing to land at Weno air­port in Mi­crone­sia but ended up half sub­merged in Chuuk la­goon af­ter the ac­ci­dent on Fri­day morn­ing.

Within min­utes, lo­cals scram­bled a flotilla of small boats to pluck the 35 pas­sen­gers and 12 crew from the wa­ter.

The air­line said the plane, which was in­volved in a col­li­sion with an­other air­craft ear- lier this year, had “landed short of the run­way.”

Re­mark­ably, it re­ported no se­ri­ous in­juries among those on the plane, which was mak­ing a sched­uled stop on its way from the Mi­crone­sian cap­i­tal Pohn­pei to Port Moresby.

“Air Ni­ug­ini can con­firm that all on board were able to safely evac­u­ate the air­craft,” the firm said. “The air­line is mak­ing all ef­forts to en­sure the safety and im­me­di­ate needs of our pas­sen­gers and crew.”

The air­line did not de­tail what caused the ac­ci­dent, which oc­curred at about 9:30 am lo­cal time. But it said it had been in- formed that “the weather was very poor with heavy rain and re­duced vis­i­bil­ity at the time of in­ci­dent.”

Pas­sen­ger Bill Jaynes, ed­i­tor of the Pohn­pei-based Kase­lehlie Press newspaper, said he did not even re­al­ize there had been an ac­ci­dent un­til he saw wa­ter gush­ing into the fuse­lage.

“It was sur­real,” he said shortly af­ter be­ing dis­charged from hos­pi­tal. “I thought we landed hard un­til I looked over and saw a hole in the side of the plane and wa­ter com­ing in. I thought ‘this is not the way it’s sup­posed to hap­pen.’”

Jaynes praised the re­sponse of the lo­cals. “They im­me­di­ately start­ing com­ing out in boats. They were awe­some and I was re­ally im­pressed,” he said.

A wit­ness told the me­dia the plane ap­proached the air­port “very low” be­fore hit­ting the wa­ter. The run­way, like oth­ers in the north Pa­cific, is rel­a­tively short at 1,831 me­ters.

It is sur­rounded on three sides by wa­ter. The Chuuk la­goon was a fa­mous World War II bat­tle site and dozens of Ja­panese ves­sels and planes are on the la­goon floor, now a tourist at­trac­tion for scuba divers.

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