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Volunteers Help Rescue 47 From Lagoon After Plane Misses Runway in Micronesia

HONG KONG — A commercial jet landed short of a runway on a tiny island in the Pacific on Friday morning and ended up in a lagoon, where small boats rushed to rescue the passengers and crew.

All on board were able to safely evacuate, the airline, Air Niugini, said in a statement. The plane was carrying 47 passengers and crew.

Images and videos posted to social media showed small boats surrounding the Boeing 737-800 aircraft as it sank in the Chuuk Lagoon, just off the airport on the island of Weno, which is part of the Federated States of Micronesia.

Volunteers with boats sped to the crash site to save passengers from the sinking aircraft, said Glenn Harris, an aviation security inspector for Micronesia’s Department of Transportation.

“Chuuk has lot of outboard engines and boats out there,” he said. “Everybody came together and rushed to the plane and rescued the passengers.”

A United States Navy underwater construction team that was working in the area helped the local authorities with rescue efforts by shuttling passengers and crew members to shore in an inflatable boat, the Seventh Fleet said in a statement.

Mr. Harris said initial reports suggested the plane was too low as it prepared to land and ended up short of the runway.

“We came in low, we came in very low,” said one passenger, Bill Jaynes, according to a report in The Pacific Daily News. “Unfortunately, the flight attendants panicked, and started yelling, and I was trying to be calm and help as best as I could.”

Mr. Jaynes, managing editor of The Kaselehlie Press, a newspaper on Pohnpei, another island in the Federated States of Micronesia, said water inside the plane came up to about his waist before he escaped through an emergency exit.

“It’s just surreal,” he said. “I thought we landed hard until I looked over and saw a hole in the side of the plane and water was coming in, and I thought, well, this is not, like, the way it’s supposed to happen.”

Air Niugini is Papua New Guinea’s national carrier. Flight 73 was flying from Pohnpei, about 415 miles to the east, and was making a stop in Chuuk before a scheduled leg to Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea.

The 13-year-old aircraft reportedly sustained damage to its wing in May, when another aircraft that was taxiing at Jacksons International Airport in Port Moresby collided with the Air Niugini jet, which was parked and unoccupied at the time.

Chuuk Lagoon, where the plane ended up after missing the runway, is a popular diving destination and the site of sunken Japanese ships that were bombed by the American military during World War II.

Source: NYT > World

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