Dozens of people were stranded in the ocean after a plane missed the runway at an airport in Micronesia.
Air Niugini says that a flight carrying 47 people (including 12 crewmembers) landed short of the runway on the small island's Chuuk International Airport.
A Miraculous Rescue
Despite stunning photos of a waterlogged Boeing 737-800 from the scene of the crash, the airline says there were no fatalities.
Maps and satellite photos of the airport's runway show it's bordered by the Pacific Ocean on three sides.
The Navy's Underwater Construction Team 2 offered assistance to passengers & crew of Air Nuigini Flight PX56 after it crashed into the lagoon near Chuuk International Airport. It crashed approximately a quarter mile short of the runway, near where UCT 2 was conducting operations. pic.twitter.com/K2MF2qKPDR— KUAM News (@kuamnews) September 28, 2018
JACDEC, an independent website that monitors airline safety and crashes, reports that a sudden downpour before landing could be to blame for the water landing.
“At this point, it is still unclear whether the aircraft overshot the end of the runway or ditched in the lagoon before reaching the runway,” the site wrote.
Locals and passengers say the plane appeared to be flying "very low" just before the crash.
One of the passengers, Bill Jaynes, described the moment he realized the plane had landed in the ocean.
"It's just surreal. 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," he remembered.
Jaynes also described wading through waist-high water with other passengers to escape the plane by its emergency exits.
Photos from the scene show dozens of passengers huddled together on the airplane's wings, waiting to be rescued as local fishermen arrived.
James Yaingeluo, one of the first people to arrive at the scene, claimed the plane was almost 1,500 feet ahead of the runway, and the crash could have been much worse.
"Luckily, it happened during the daytime," he said. "When the plane came to a stop all the civilian boats came to help transport passengers to dry land."
“Once the doors opened everybody fought to get out," he added. "All the passengers were scared and in shock”
PLANE CRASH / WATER LANDING— Tom Podolec Aviation (@TomPodolec) September 28, 2018
Air Niugini #PX73 ended up in the water near Chuuk International Airport, Micronesia. All passengers and crew reported safe. Initial reports indicate the flight was arriving and landed in the water.
📝📷Guam Daily Post pic.twitter.com/H82JeslYxz
Both passengers and locals praised the fishermen, who arrived minutes before emergency crews and may have saved lives.
"They just went straight out there and started hauling people to shore," said island resident Matthew Coulson.
“One might think they’d be afraid to approach a plane that just crashed … [but] they were awesome,” said Jaynes.
Some passengers were reportedly treated for broken bones, and Jaynes described seeing "pretty severe injuries."
Air Niugini says they’re providing accommodations and return flights for passengers from the downed plane.