Air Niugini has confirmed one of its passengers on board flight PX73 that landed in a lagoon short of the runway at Chuuk Airport in the Federated States of Micronesia has died.
While the initial statements from the airline on the day of the September 28 incident involving the Boeing 737-800 P2-PXE indicated all 35 passengers and 12 crew had been rescued, reports later emerged that that one passenger was unaccounted for.
Air Niugini chief executive Tahawar Durrani said in a statement on the airline’s Facebook page on Tuesday rescue teams had located the body of the missing passenger.
“It is with deep sadness I confirm that the body of a male passenger was discovered by divers today as they conducted a further search of P2-PXE and the surrounding area in the Chuuk Lagoon,” Durrani said.
“This is the unaccounted passenger from the aircraft. Our outreach team is in touch with the man’s family and we are making arrangements to repatriate his body.
“We express our deepest sympathy to his family. We are and will continue to provide support to his family in this time of loss.”
The 737-800 was operating from Pohnpei, also part of the Federated States of Micronesia, to Chuuk. The flight was then scheduled to continue on to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.
However, the 737 ended in the lagoon alongside Chuuk Airport when attempting to land. There was rain and reduced visibility in the vicinity of the airport at the time of the incident.
Locals rushed to the aircraft in small boats to rescue passengers and crew, images published on social media showed.
VIDEO: A United States Navy Underwater Construction Team (UCT) helps rescue passengers from the Air Niugini Boeing 737-800 that landed in a Chuuk lagoon.
Chuuk Airport has a single asphalt runway 04/22 that measures 1,831m in length.
Durrani said investigations into what happened were ongoing.
“The circumstances surrounding this accident are now a matter for relevant authorities as they begin their task of investigating the events that led to the incident and the actions which followed,” Durrani said.
“We are committing all required resources to ascertain the factors that led to this accident.”
The scenes were reminiscent of the US Airways flight 1549 in 2009, which landed on New York’s Hudson River after suffering a double engine failure shortly after takeoff due to birdstrike.
There was also a 2013 Lion Air flight that overshot the runway and ended up in water when attempting to land at Denpasar, with all on board rescued by small boats.
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