- Air Niugini Flight 73 crash-landed into a Micronesian lagoon after the pilot missed the runway last Friday.
- The airline said everyone safely evacuated the aircraft, but now says one man had died.
- Over the weekend airline authorities said they were unable to account for that man, who was seen leaving the aircraft and on a dinghy going to shore.
- How the man disappeared between boarding the dinghy and arriving to land is not clear.
A Papua New Guinean airline whose plane crash-landed into a Pacific island lagoon last week has reported one death from the disaster, three days after claiming that everyone survived.
Air Niugini Flight 73 crash-landed into a lagoon off the Micronesian island of Chuuk last Friday morning after the pilot missed the runway. The Boeing 737 aircraft had been flying from Pohnpei, another Micronesian island, earlier that day.
The airline said hours after the crash that all 35 passengers and 12 crew members “were able to safely evacuate the aircraft.” At least six people were taken to hospital.
But on Saturday, the airline said that it was unable to account for one male passenger. The unnamed man was seen evacuating the aircraft and in one of the dinghies helping transport passengers to shore, but was later not found for some reason, Air Niugini said in a statement sent to Business Insider.
“An inspection of the entire submerged cabin of the aircraft by the US Navy seals, further corroborated by other eye witness reports who saw the passenger board one of the dinghies on Friday, has confirmed that all passengers safely evacuated the aircraft at the time of the accident,” Air Niugini chairman Sir Kostas Constantinou said in a Sunday statement posted on Facebook.
And on Monday, the airline confirmed that divers found the body of the unaccounted man in the Chuuk lagoon’s surrounding area.
In a statement sent to Business Insider, Air Niugini CEO Tahawar Durrani confirmed the death “with deep sadness” and said the company was “committing all required resources to ascertain the factors that led to this accident.”
How the man disappeared between boarding the dinghy and arriving to land is not clear. Business Insider has contacted Air Niugini for further comment.
Most of the remaining passengers and all of the crew members arrived in Port Moresby, the Papua New Guinea capital, where the airline is arranging their accommodation and further travel.
Two people have since been released from hospital, with the four remaining in stable condition and being transported to Guam for further treatment.
The exact cause of the crash remains unclear. Air Niugini said it received reports that the weather was poor with heavy rain and reduced visibility at the time of the incident.
Read Air Niugini’s full statement:
“It is with deep sadness I confirm that the body of male passenger was discovered by divers today as they conducted a further search of P2-PXE [Pohnpei to Chuuk route] and the surrounding area in the Chuuk Lagoon.
“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.
“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. We are committing all required resources to ascertain the factors that led to this accident.
“We express our deepest sympathy to his family. We are and will continue to provide to his family in this time of loss.”
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