Airline now says one missing after Pacific lagoon plane crash

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One man is missing after a plane crashed into a Pacific lagoon in Micronesia, according to the airline operating the flight, after earlier saying that all 47 passengers and crew had safely evacuated the sinking aircraft.

Air Niugini said in a press release that, as of Saturday afternoon, it was unable to account for a male passenger.

The airline said it was working with local authorities, hospitals and investigators to try to find the man.

Micronesia Plane Crash
Local fishing boats helped recover the passengers and crew (James Yaingeluo/AP)

Local boats helped rescue the other passengers and crew after the plane hit the water while trying to land at the Chuuk Island airport on Friday.

Officials earlier said seven people had been taken to hospital.

The airline said six passengers remained in hospital on Saturday, and all of them were in a stable condition.

The cause of 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 aircraft overshot the runway.

Micronesia Plane Crash
Passenger Bill Jaynes said the flight attendants were panicking and yelling (Matthew Colson/AP)

“I thought we landed hard until I looked over and saw a hole in the side of the plane and water was coming in,” he said. “And I thought ‘Well, this is not the way it’s supposed to happen’.”

Mr Jaynes said he and other passengers managed to wade through waist-deep water to the emergency exits on the sinking plane.

He said the flight attendants were panicking and yelling, and that he suffered a minor head injury.

“I was really impressed with the locals who immediately started coming out in boats,” he said in an interview with a missionary in Chuuk, Matthew Colson, which was posted online and shared with the Associated Press.

The US Navy said sailors working nearby on improving a wharf also helped in the rescue by using an inflatable boat to shuttle people ashore before the plane sank in about 100ft (30m) of water.

Air Niugini is the national airline of Papua New Guinea and 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.

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