The body of the Indonesian victim of the plane crash at Chuuk in the South Pacific has arrived back on his home island of Java.
On 28 September, an Air Niugini aircraft crashed in a lagoon on the Micronesian island.
Initially it was believed that all the passengers and crew aboard had survived. But when a second search of the half-submerged cabin was carried out by divers, the body of Eko Cahyanto Singgih was discovered.
His remains were flown via the Papua New Guinea capital, Port Moresby, and Singapore.
At a memorial service for the victim, Andrew Nui, deputy chairman of Air Niugini, praised islanders on Chuuk and a US Navy team who went out into the lagoon to assist passengers and crew. “Their courage and quick thinking helped save lives and our thanks and gratitude goes out to all of them,” he said.
Some passengers are still recovering in hospital.
The Boeing 737 was flying from the Micronesian island of Pohnpei to Port Moresby, with an intermediate stop at Chuuk. But the jet ended up in the lagoon, in circumstances that have yet to be explained. Conflicting reports suggest the plane either undershot or overran the island’s short runway.
The search for the aircraft’s “black boxes” – the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder – is continuing.
The flight had 35 passengers and 12 crew on board. Inexplicably no check appears to have been made between the survivors and the flight manifest.
“This was hardly Sully and the Hudson,” said one aviation expert, comparing the Air Niugini crash with the “Miracle of the Hudson” in 2009, when Captain Chesley Sullenberger successfully ditched a stricken US Airways jet in the Hudson River after shortly after take off from New York’s La Guardia airport.
The number of the fatal flight, PX73, has been retired. The link from Pohnpei to Port Moresby via Chuuk is now known as PX75.
With Air Niugini’s fleet in disarray because of the loss of one of its key planes, the route now has only one flight a week rather than two. It is operated by a Fokker 70, with barely half the capacity of the 737.
Air Niugini is the national carrier of Papua New Guinea (PNG).
The Foreign Office says: “Flying in PNG carries greater safety risks than flying in the UK.”
In the past 18 years, more than 20 passenger planes have crashed in the country.
“The worst recent crash was on 13 April 2016 when a Sunbird Aviation PNG Britten-Norman Islander aircraft crashed at Kinuga Airport, killing all 12 people on board,” says the Foreign Office
The plane involved in the Chuuk accident, registration P2-PXE, was involved in a ground collision at Jacksons International Airport in 2017.