Brave Indonesian air controller hailed as a hero

Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2018

An air traffic controller has been hailed as a hero after he guided a passenger plane into the air before jumping for his life from the control tower during a devastating earthquake that hit Indonesia on September 28, 2018.

Anthonius Gunawan Agung, only 21 years old, was on duty at Mutiara SIS Al-Jufrie Airport (PLW), near the city of Palu, Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island, when the building began to shake from a 6.1 magnitude tremor, followed by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, of which Palu was the epicenter, CNN reports.

Despite the powerful tremors, which triggered a tsunami, Agung did not leave his post. His colleagues that were not handling aircraft, began evacuating, while he stayed behind to ensure that a Batik Air (Indonesia) flight had taken off safely.

Once the plane was airborne, a large tremor struck causing the roof of the control tower to collapse. That is when Agung decided to jump from a window of the four-floor building, breaking his limbs. He was rushed to a hospital with serious internal injuries but later died, just before a helicopter that would have taken him for further treatment arrived, BBC writes.

“When the quake happened, he was giving clearance to Batik Air to take off and waited for the plane to be safely airborne before finally leaving the ATC cabin tower,” Yohanes Harry Sirait, a spokesman for Air Navigation Indonesia, the air traffic control service, was quoted as saying by Sky News.

“Batik 6231 runway 33 clear for take off,” these were the last words that the pilot of Batik Air flight, Icoze Ezoci, heard from Agung. He also said that the tower collapsed just after he got take-off clearance and that if he had tried to take off some 30 seconds later, the passenger plane would not have been able to get airborne.

The pilot of Batik Air has since called him his ‘guardian angel’ and his “wing man” in a post on Instagram that included a picture of Agung.