Airline now says 1 missing after Pacific lagoon plane crash

Locals approach the crashed Air Niugini aircraft on the remote Island of Weno in Micronesia on Friday. — AFP

Locals approach the crashed Air Niugini aircraft on the remote Island of Weno in Micronesia on Friday. — AFP

A day after saying that all 47 passengers and crew members had safely evacuated after the crash-landing of one of its planes in Micronesia, officials with Air Niugini said Saturday that one passenger was missing.

The rescue teams helped in shuttling passengers and crew of Air Niugini flight PX56 to shore following the plane crashing into the sea on its approach to Chuuk International Airport in Weno, Chuuk, Micronesia.

Seven passengers and crew were initially hospitalized but no serious injuries were reported.

Passenger Bill Jaynes said the plane came in very low. "Until I looked over and saw a hole in the side of the plane and water was coming in". "I thought, well, this is not the way it's supposed to happen".

Jaynes said he and others managed to wade through waist-deep water to the emergency exits on the sinking plane. He said he called his wife, who started crying. "One would think they might be afraid of approaching the plane that's just crashed".

The sequence of events remains unclear. However, Jaynes said the only scenario he can imagine is that it hit the end of the runway and continued into the water. A flotilla of local boats rescued the passengers from the sinking aircraft.

Jaynes, meanwhile, reflecting on his experience, said, "I'm alive, and that's an extremely good thing". Flight 73 was flying from Pohnpei, about 415 miles to the east, stopping in Chuuk before a scheduled leg to Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea. The Chuuk lagoon was a famous World War II battle site and dozens of Japanese vessels and planes are on the lagoon floor, now a tourist attraction for scuba divers.

Harris said he doesn't know what caused the crash landing or whether the pilots had alerted air traffic control of any problems.

The website said the accident is still under investigation.

His age and nationality is unknown, but Air Niugini says it is working with local authorities, hospitals and investigators to try and find him. Multiple reports said there was decreased visibility due to adverse weather.

It's the national airline of Papua New Guinea, a nation that makes up the western half of the giant island of New Guinea known for remote jungle-clad mountains and tribes that rarely make contact with the outside world. The airline identified the flight as PX 073 with the registration number P2-PXE.

According to USA Today, the country has close ties to the United States under an agreement known as a compact of free association.

The aircraft was configured for 158 passengers in two classes. But their total land area is only four times the size of the US capital.

The DFA also noted that one passenger is missing, but the other 46 passengers were safe.

In both crashes, everyone survived.

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