The U.S. Coast Guard said today that it successfully evacuated four people to Guam after a plane landed in the water Friday about a quarter-mile off the airport runway in Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia.
The Coast Guard deployed an HC-130 Hercules aircrew from Air Station Barbers Point on Oahu with a medical assistance team Friday. The Coast Guard in Guam had received an alert from an emergency locator transmitter beacon registered to an Air Niugini Boeing 737.
Air Niugini had initially said all 47 passengers and crew had survived when the Boeing 737 crashed near the Chuuk island runway. But Air Niugini chief executive Tahawar Durrani said a man’s body was found in the Pacific lagoon by divers Monday.
The airline said in a statement on Tuesday the man was Indonesian, but did not reveal his identity.
“Our outreach team is in touch with the man’s family and we are making arrangements to repatriate his body,” Durrani said in a statement.
Flight PX73 — which flies from Tokyo’s Narita International Airport to Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, via Pohnpei and Chuuk — crashed about 475 feet from the Chuuk International Airport runway, the airline said.
What caused the crash remains unclear. The airline and U.S. Navy said the plane landed in the lagoon short of the runway. Some witnesses thought the plane overshot the runway.
A Papua New Guinea accident investigation team flew to Micronesia on Friday, the Post Courier newspaper reported.
Air Niugini has operated since 1973. Data from the Aviation Safety Network indicate the Indonesian passenger is Air Niugini’s first fatality in two decades.
The Coast Guard said Emergency Medical Services met the crew and transported the four individuals to the Naval Hospital in Guam, where they received care.
“The success of this medevac operation is owed largely in part to the strong and continued partnerships between the Coast Guard and the Federated States of Micronesia government entities and the search and rescue liaisons of each Micronesian State,” said Lt. Charles Cummings, SAR Mission Coordinator, Sector Guam in a news release. “The solid foundation that exists between us highlights the importance of an efficient global rescue network, especially in these remote locations of the Pacific where logistics can be very challenging. This case resulted in the four people in need reaching higher level care in an expedited manner, two receiving life-saving treatment, thanks to that strong network.”