Flotilla of small boats rescues passengers from crashed plane in Micronesia

Saul Bowman
October 1, 2018

Air Niugini said in a statement on Saturday that it could not account for one male passenger, but on Sunday it said other passengers had confirmed he had safely evacuated the plane and was seen in a local dinghy that transported passengers and crew to the shore.

Local authorities and the airline are continuing to investigate the location of the unaccounted passenger. Seven passengers and crew were initially hospitalized but no serious injuries were reported.

"We don't really know what happened ... people were rescued by boats - 36 passengers and 11 crew were all rescued, only the plane is sinking right now", he added.

"Air Niugini advises that its Boeing 737-800 series aircraft, P2-PXE landed short of the runway whilst landing at Chuuk Island of the Federated States of Micronesia this morning".

"There's a badly injured guy on the other side", one man said, relaying the message to an another vessel approaching the sinking plane.

In 2008, an Asia Pacific Airlines cargo Boeing 727 overran and ended up with its nose landing gear in the lagoon at the end of the Pohnpei airport runway.

Micronesia Plane Crash
Passenger Bill Jaynes said the flight attendants were panicking and yelling

The fleet includes Boeing 767 and 737 jets for global routes, according to the airline, as well as Fokker F-100 aircraft, Q400 and Dash 8 aircraft for challenging local terrain. All the passengers and crew were rescued.

Bill Jaynes, one of the passengers, said the plane came in very low. "I thought "this is not the way it's supposed to happen".

Photographs and video footage posted online showed small fishing boats surrounding the stricken, semi-submerged plane, ferrying passengers to safety.

"Australian Embassy officials in Pohnpei have spoken to two Australians who were on the aircraft and neither has requested consular assistance", said a DFAT spokesperson.

The team had been in the area working on improving the wharf in Chuuk.

Air Niugini's network is concentrated on domestic routes linking the capital, Port Moresby, with isolated points across the Papua New Guinea archipelago, but it flies as far as Tokyo and Hong Kong.

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