An Air Niugini passenger jet landed in a shallow lagoon by the Micronesian island of Chuuk Friday morning, injuring seven people, including one in critical but stable condition.
Air Niugini is the national air carrier of Papua, New Guinea that offers mostly domestic routes and some routes in Asia and the Pacific islands. The flight that crash landed, identified as PX 073, was carrying 47 people — 35 passengers and 12 crew members.
According to the BBC, the Air Niugini Boeing 737-800 plane took off from the island of Pohnpei, another island in the Federated States of Micronesia archipelago, about 435 miles to the east of Chuuk.
Passenger Bill Jaynes, who suffered a minor head injury during the crash landing, told the Associated Press that he thought the airplane had experienced a rough landing until he noticed water pouring in through a hole in the side of the aircraft.
Mr. Jaynes said he was impressed with how many locals with boats rushed to assist those trying to escape the downed airplane. Crews from the U.S. Navy’s Underwater Construction Team also helped local authorities shuttle passengers and crew from the airplane in the lagoon to shore.
Seven people were taken to a hospital on the island, including one person in critical but stable condition.
“It’s really fortunate that we didn’t have any fatalities,” said Glenn Harris, a government aviation security inspector for the Federated States of Micronesia, according to the Associated Press.
Mr. Harris said he hadn’t yet seen a passenger manifest for the Air Niugini flight, but typical passengers would include business people from Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, and Australia, as well as some tourists. Chuuk is famous in the diving world for its dozens of World War II shipwrecks forming natural reefs in its clear lagoons.
Air Niugini said the airplane landed short of the runway, but at least one passenger said the jet landed on the runway but then ran off into the lagoon.
Weather conditions at the time of the crash were rainy with poor visibility.