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Local Boats Rescue Everyone Aboard 737 After It Crashes Into Micronesian Lagoon

Updated at 5:20 a.m. ET

Thanks in part to a flotilla of local boats, all 47 people aboard a Boeing 737 are safe after a crash-landing in a lagoon at the Pacific island of Chuuk.

The Air Niugini plane was on approach to the airport at the island, part of the Federated States of Micronesia, when it apparently fell short of the runway.

Chuuk Airport Manager Jimmy Emilio was quoted by The Guam Daily Post as saying that when the plane went down, local boaters and a local rescue team rushed to the crash site.

"It was supposed to land but instead of landing it was 150 yards short and she went down," Emilio, told Reuters by telephone from Weno in Micronesia.

"We don't really know what happened ... people were rescued by boats - 36 passengers and 11 crew were all rescued, only the plane is sinking right now," he said.

In a brief statement, the airline said it could confirm that "all on board were able to safely evacuate the aircraft."

Bill Jaynes, editor of The Kaselehlie Press in Pohnpei — another island in the vast western Pacific archipelago — was aboard the flight.

"It's just surreal," he said. "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."

The U.S. Pacific Command, in a statement issued in Guam, said Navy sailors assigned to the Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2, who were working in Chuuk at the time of the crash, "rendered immediate assistance to the passengers and crew" of the downed airplane.

Reuters notes, "In 2013, all 101 passengers aboard a Lion Air flight that overshot the runway at Denpasar in Indonesia and landed in shallow water were similarly rescued by boats without casualties."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.