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Be ready to jump off’

Air Taxi Incident in Vanuatu's Eromango Island

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A rescue team led by the Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) Maritime Wing yesterday successfully saved the lives of five people on an Air Taxi aircraft after the engine went off mid-air.

The pilot of the sunken plane, Captain Duncan Lawson, said during their arrival at the Mala Base wharf in Port Vila around 7pm yesterday that they are happy to be alive.

It was said that the five passengers were travelling to Erromango Island with one of Air Taxi’s plane when the incident occurred.

According to the VPF Maritime Wing, they departed at 3:30pm yesterday and took the course according to the coordinates they received.

The team went out to Pango Point, travelled towards the position they received and located the plane around 5 o’clock.

“We understand that the plane was circulating on air is showing us that this is where the victims was floating. We then located the raft at exactly 5:10pm and recovered all of them at around 5:15pm.

All of them are safe, we also recover the live raft on board so we departed for Port Vila around 5:20pm and arrived in Port Vila at 6:45pm,” the VPF Maritime Wing stated.

Air Taxi’s statement relayed that the plane experienced a loss of power and had to ditch in the water and that the event accentuates the unparalleled preparedness and exemplary training of their pilots and crew at Air Taxi Vanuatu, reflecting their commitment to ensuring the highest safety standards and the well-being of their passengers.

“The immediate actions and calm professionalism of our pilot, combined with the effectiveness of our advanced equipment including GPS tracking and life rafts, played a crucial role in the speedy resolution of this incident,” they stated.

“We wish to reassure all our valued customers, partners, and stakeholders that an in-depth investigation is already in progress to ascertain the cause of the incident and to reinforce our preventive measures, affirming our unwavering commitment to safety and reliability in our services.”

One of the survivors disclosed the engine went off between 12 to 1 o’clock, and as they were heading for the water the pilot told them to open the doors and to be ready to jump off the plane.

“The engine went off, the pilot tried to restart the plane but the engine was totally off. If it was on land everyone will be dead.

“We saw two planes when we were in the water, the first one did not see us, the second one saw us and dropped some water bottles and another raft, we cannot manage to get the bottles of water since they were dropped a long distance from us,” the survivor said.

“We also had to use a container to remove water from the raft since there were five of us in a raft and water kept coming in.”

The rescue operation was carried out by the VPF, in particular the crew on Emma Kate, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Defence Force and Robin Deamer (Unity Airlines).

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