Indonesian Air Traffic Controller Dies Helping Passenger Jet Escape Earthquake

Anthonius Gunawan Agung, an Indonesian air traffic controller, died on Friday helping a passenger jet escape the earthquake. The 21-year-old air traffic controller worked at Mutiara SIS Al-Jufrie Airport near Palu. He stayed behind in order to see to the safe departure of a jet set for takeoff.

Tribune Kaltim

Indonesian Air Traffic Controller Heroically Sees to Jet’s Safe Takeoff

Agung, who was only 21, was aware that the earthquake had hit the island when he stayed behind. He insisted on getting the flight, Batik Air, safely airborne before he would leave his post. However, by the time the plane was safely in the air, the quack was bringing down the air traffic control tower. Agung leapt from the tower as it collapsed but suffered broken bones and internal damage from the fall. He died at the hospital.

Response to Agung’s Sacrifice

The pilot of the plane, Icoze Ezoci, posted a heartfelt tribute to him on Instagram. “‘Batik 6231 runway 33 clear for take off’. This was his last transmission to me then we replied. Thank you for keeping me and guarding me till I’m safely airborne. Then he jumped out of tower broke his leg and arm. Wing of honor for Anthonius Gunawan Agung as my guardian angel at Palu. Rest peacefully my wing man. God be with you.”

Ezoci also posted footage from the plane’s cockpit that showed the ground and sea below rocking with the impact of the quake. According to Ezoci, if the plane had attempted to take off even 30 seconds later it would have been too late. Agung’s sacrifice was not in vain, as the plane was safely away and avoided the devastating 7.5-magnitude earthquake.

The air traffic control company Agung worked for also posted a tribute to him on Twitter. The post by AirNav Indonesia shows Agung’s body being saluted by lines of soldiers, and is accompanied by the hashtag “#RIPAgung”.

The Quake

At time of writing, the quake that hit Sulawesi Island on Friday has claimed at least 800 lives. Experts fear that thousands may be dead in the wake of the earthquake. Thousands more are thought to be trapped on the island as the rescue effort unfolds.

Indonesian authorities are rushing to get relief, food, water and rescue teams to the island. At time of writing the rescue effort is in full swing but is complicated by the extensive damage from the quake. Dozens of buildings were downed by the initial quake, and many more fell due to the aftershocks.