Canberra: Four passengers remained hospitalised on Monday after an airliner crashed into a Pacific lagoon in Micronesia last week, the airline said. The four were in stable conditions at a Chuuk island hospital and would soon be taken to Guam for further treatment, Air Niugini said in a statement.
A Chuuk State Hospital official did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. The four were among 47 passengers and crew who were evacuated from a sinking Boeing 737 on Friday after Flight PX73 from nearby Pohnpei island crashed into a lagoon about 145 metres from the Chuuk International Airport runway, the Papua New Guinea national carrier said.
The airline revealed on Saturday that one of the passengers hadn’t been accounted for, although a search of the airliner’s interior by US Navy divers had confirmed he was not inside. An Air Niugini spokeswoman did not immediately respond on Monday to a request for an update on the search for the passenger and for further details about him, including his nationality.
Air Niugini chairman Kosta Constaninou said witnesses reported seeing the passenger board a dinghy as US divers and locals rescued the passengers and crew from the sinking plane. What caused the crash and the exact sequence of events remains unclear. The airline and the US Navy both 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. An official form Micronesia’s Division of Civil Aviation did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Flight PX73 flies from the Tokyo Narita Airport in Japan to the Papua New Guinea capital Port Moresby via Pohnpei and Chuuk. Air Niugini has operated since 1973. Data from the Aviation Safety Network indicates 111 people have died in crashes of PNG-registered airlines in the past two decades but none involved Air Niugini.