The runway at Chuuk Airport in the Federated States of Micronesia is notoriously short—something the pilot of Flight 73 apparently wasn't aware of. The Air Niugini Boeing 737, stopping in Chuuk on its way to Papua New Guinea, overshot the runway and hit the water while trying to land Friday morning, Radio New Zealand reports. Local fishermen who had been selling their catch at a nearby market took to the water and managed to rescue all 47 passengers and crew before the plane sank in the lagoon. Four people were hospitalized with serious injuries including broken bones. Passenger Bill Jaynes says flight attendants "panicked and started yelling" as the plane came in "very low."
"I thought we landed hard until I looked over and saw a hole in the side of the plane and water was coming in," Jaynes says, per the Sydney Morning Herald. "I thought, well, this is not like the way it's supposed to happen." He says he was impressed by how the local fishermen fearlessly rushed to approach a plane that had just crashed. Chuuk resident Matthew Colson, a Baptist missionary, tells the Guardian that Air Niugini only recently started flying to the island. "There are flights every day but this has never happened before," he says. "Mainly because this route is considered one of United’s hardest routes for the 737, so they ... send their best pilots out here for the island hopper." (Read more Micronesia stories.)