Indonesian air traffic controller sacrifices life to ensure plane escapes earthquake, tsunami

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A massive 7.5 earthquake rocked Indonesia on Friday, followed by a devastating tsunami, which killed over a thousand people in the southeast Asian island chain nation by official counts. Hundreds more are feared dead, buried in the rubble and mud.

One man who lost his life was a young air traffic controller in the city of Palu, who stayed at his post in a heroic effort to ensure that the last flight cleared for takeoff, carrying hundreds of people, was able to get airborne safely.

21-year-old Anthonius Gunawan Agung is being honored as a hero after he made the ultimate sacrifice to safely guide the last plane up and out of the airport just as the earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck, destroying and flooding the runways and buildings around them.

Ultimate sacrifice

While others fled for their lives from the Mutiara SIS Al-Jufrie Airport on Friday, Agung remained at his post in the damaged and crumbling control tower to maintain contact with the pilot of Batik Air flight 6321.

That flight had already been cleared for takeoff and was taxiing down the runway when the earthquake hit.

Agung refused to abandon his post during the emergency until the flight was safely in the air.

The heroic air traffic controller then attempted to make his own escape once the plane was airborne, jumping from a fourth-floor window as the building was shaken by tremors.

Agung survived the initial fall with a broken leg and internal injuries, and was raced to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Unfortunately, he succumbed to those injuries the following morning.

Guardian angel

In an interview with CNN, the pilot of that final plane — Ricoseta Mafella —  honored Agung as not just a hero, but a “guardian angel” for him and the hundreds of other people on that commercial flight.

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This young air traffic controller could have rushed for safety when the earthquake first struck, and likely would still be alive today had he put himself first.

Instead, this brave young man set his own personal safety aside to ensure the safety of strangers, ultimately sacrificing his own life to save hundreds. A hero, indeed.

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