Indonesian Air Traffic Controller Sacrificed His Life To Get Aircraft Airborne

In the wake of the horrific earthquake that has devasted the island of Sulawesi, and the resulting tsunami that has claimed 832 lives so far, news has emerged of the best and worst in humanity. While reports indicate that looting is spreading in the stricken region, other reports demonstrate the extreme heroism and bravery shown by many on the island, and non-more so than 21-year-old air traffic controller Anthonius Gunawan Agung.

Tsunami about to hit Sulawesi
Tsunami about to hit Sulawesi

The young man was faced with a devilish choice, as the earthquake struck, and the air traffic control tower at Mutiara SIS Al-Jufrie airport started to shake. Batik Air flight 6231 was ready for take-off on the Apron. As his colleagues fled the shaking building in panic, Agung chose to stay behind to ensure that the flight got off the ground safely. Once the plane was airborne he started to make his escape from the now crumbling building.

Making his way down the tower, with the shaking getting stronger Agung eventually found himself stranded halfway down with no means to escape. With no choice left he jumped from the fourth story of the building. The fall resulted in a broken leg and severe internal injuries. While Agung was taken to a hospital and was awaiting transport via helicopter to a specialist facility he succumbed to his wounds.

According to Yohannes Sirait, a spokesperson for Air Navigation Indonesia, Agung’s actions saved everyone onboard the aircraft, as the region was later devasted by a 10ft/3m tsunami. In recognition for his extraordinary courage in the face of terrible circumstances, Agung has had his rank increased by two levels posthumously to recognize his extraordinary dedication and commitment. Agung’s body was given a military escort and his body was carried by Indonesian soldiers as it was sent for burial.

The events on the tiny island of Sulawesi, bring memories of the devastating tsunami that struck close by on December 26, 2004. The Indian Ocean tsunami caused a huge loss of life across the Indo-Pacific basin, with final estimates being that a total of over 350,000 people perished from the massive tidal wave that swept across the Indian ocean.

The area is known as the ring of fire due to the high level of volcanic activity, and the dangers from resulting tsunamis caused by tremors below the surface. Sulawesi is a popular tourist destination, especially amongst scuba divers, and the north-east is home to one of the world most famous dive spots the Lembeh Strait.