Military personnel prepare to board a plane at Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force Base in East Jakarta on Saturday morning (29/09) to assist the victims of a massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Palu and Donggala in Central Sulawesi on Friday evening. (Antara Photo/Muhammad Adimaja)

Heroic Air Traffic Controller Dies After Ensuring Last Flight Escapes Palu Earthquake


SEPTEMBER 29, 2018

Jakarta. Praise is rolling in for Anthonius Gunawan Agung, a young air traffic controller at Mutiara SIS Al-Jufri Airport in Palu, Central Sulawesi, who died on Friday evening (28/09) while jumping from a collapsing control tower shortly after ensuring that the last commercial flight cleared the runway just as a massive earthquake struck the area.

Agung, who would have celebrated his 22nd birthday next month, is one of at least 384 people who have so far been confirmed to have died in the magnitude-7.4 earthquake that hit the coastal towns of Palu and Donggala at around 6 p.m. on Friday. The quake was followed about 30 minutes later by an up to 3-meter-high tsunami, which swept hundreds of meters inland.


"When the earthquake occurred, Agung had cleared Batik Air for takeoff. He waited until the aircraft was safely in the air before leaving his air traffic controller cabin," Yohanes Sirait, a spokesman for state-owned flight navigation service AirNav Indonesia, said in a statement on Saturday.

Agung jumped from the control tower as the top level was collapsing, but he did not survive the fall.

"We are deeply sorry and pray for his soul and other victims in the earthquake," Yohanes said.

Batik Air pilot Ricosetta Mafella, who captained the last flight, expressed his gratitude for Agung's actions and shared the hero's last words on his Instagram account.

The captain said he requested the tower to allow him to take off three minutes ahead of schedule and that Agung had readily granted his request.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said Friday's earthquake originated from the Palu Koro fissure, which was responsible for many large earthquakes on the island previously.

Thousands of people in Palu and Donggala have meanwhile been left homeless, while the authorities are scrambling to restore power, telecommunications and access to the area to bring in emergency supplies.