In Depth

Indonesian air traffic controller killed in earthquake hailed as a hero

Anthonius Gunawan Agung died after staying in tower to guide a plane carrying hundreds of passengers to safety

An air traffic controller in Indonesia is being hailed as a hero after he died ensuring that a plane carrying hundreds of people made it safely off the ground.

Anthonius Gunawan Agung, 21, was on duty at an airport near the city of Palu when a 7.5 magnitude quake hit Indonesia's Sulawesi island on Friday.

His colleagues who were not handling aircraft evacuated the control tower, but “Agung stayed at his post until the plane had safely departed”, says the BBC.

The building began to shake soon after the plane left and, “fearing he would be trapped beneath the debris if the tower collapsed around him,” Agung jumped from a fourth floor window, the Daily Mail says.

He was quickly rushed to hospital having suffered internal injuries and a broken leg. Realising they were unable to treat him, doctors summoned a rescue helicopter to take him to a different hospital for specialist care, but, Agung died before the helicopter arrived.

“Agung dedicated himself to his job until the end of his life and did not leave the control tower until the plane took off,” Didiet KS Radityo, the corporate secretary for Air Navigation Indonesia, told the Jakarta Post.

Spokesman for Air Navigation Indonesia, Yohannes Sirait, said the decision may have saved hundreds of lives.

“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,” said Sirait, a spokesman for Indonesia's air traffic control service.

The pilot said Agung's last words to him were: “Batik 6231 runway 33 clear for take off”.

Sirait added that Agung’s rank has been posthumously promoted by two levels “as a form of appreciation for his outstanding dedication towards the deceased” said the organisation.

The tale of his sacrifice quickly spread online, where he was hailed a hero.

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