The dramatic plunge of an Air Niugini Boeing 737 into a lagoon in Micronesia has become a fatal crash after a missing male passenger was pulled from the water.
Air Niugini chief executive Tahawar Durrani confirmed late Monday that the passenger’s body was discovered by divers after they conducted a further search of the plane and the surrounding Chuuk Lagoon.
“This is the unaccounted passenger from the aircraft,’’ Durrani said. “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 support to his family in this time of loss.”
The airline initially said all 47 passengers and crew on the plane had safely escaped the flooding jet after it came in too low during heavy rain and reduced visibility and plunged into the lagoon on September 28. Four people were taken to hospital.
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However, the airline later admitted it could not account for one passenger even though witnesses had reported he had evacuated from the plane.
Chuuk International Airport manager Jimmy Emilio told Pacific Daily News media shortly after the crash that the 737 had tried to land at around 9:30 am local time, ending up around 160mts from the runway.
Flight PX073 was operating from Pohnpei in Micronesia and was due to continue to Port Moresby.
The aircraft registered P2-PXE and was delivered 13 years ago.
Air Niugini had enjoyed a fatality free record to this point and had passed the International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA).