Four passengers that included a 3-year-old child survived early yesterday morning’s Star Marianas crash and were airlifted from Tinian to Saipan to receive treatment, while two other adult passengers and the male pilot died at the jungle crash site.
The four survivors are two female adults, one male adult, and a 3-year-old girl, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. officials said in a news briefing at 3pm yesterday.
They are all Chinese nationals and are tourists.
Dr. Marty Rohringer, an emergency room doctor at the hospital, said at 3pm yesterday that the three adult survivors were listed in critical but stable condition and two of them underwent “surgical intervention.”
“There are three adults, one child. Three adults were all in critical but stable condition during assessment treatment. The child was in serious but stable condition,” he said.
Rohringer said the injuries were “critical and serious.”
Dr. Sherleen Osmond, CHC nephrologist and hospital medical director, said it’s “much too early to say” whether any of the adult survivors would need to be sent to an off-island hospital.
Press secretary Angel Demapan said the government will continue working with federal authorities with oversight of aviation activities in the CNMI.
“This is a very unfortunate incident and a very sad day for all of us here and especially the families of the pilot and passengers. However, it is important that we allow the proper authorities, both federal and local, to conduct their assessment and investigation to determine the cause of [Sunday’s] accident,” Demapan said.
Interisland travel is very important in the CNMI, he said.
“Thus, travelers can be assured that the government and our federal partners will thoroughly investigate this matter,” he added.
Esther Muña, interim CHC chief executive officer, reassured the families that the patients at CHC are being taken cared of by a “great team.”
“They were quick to respond in 30 minutes. We want to express that every patient that comes here at CHC, we’re going to give them the best care that we can provide. And we did that today,” Muña told reporters at the CHC administrative offices.
CHC officials thanked all those who helped respond to the emergency.
A group of Chinese tourists who were with the victims on this tour of the CNMI also stayed at CHC to be with the survivors.
They and the hospital were assisted by the American Red Cross-NMI Chapter led by executive director John Hirsh.
At about 5pm yesterday, the bodies of the three who died were still at the crash site on Tinian.
They were brought to Saipan on body bags via boat last night.
Demapan confirmed that the pilot—a Caucasian male—was among the three who perished on Tinian.
He said the two passengers who died were a “29-year-old Chinese male and a 26-year-old Chinese female.”
“Pending notification of next of kin, we are not able to disclose any further details,” he said.
Sources said the father of the child who survived was the male passenger that was killed in the crash.
The plane was a Piper PA-32-300 Cherokee Six.
Airlifted from Tinian
Warren Villagomez, CHC emergency preparedness director, said he received the first call at 5:45am yesterday from CNMI homeland security advisor Marvin Seman about the aircraft crash, and CHC mobilization and other preparations began immediately.
At 8:30am, Villagomez said CHC activated its Code “D” and all medical personnel were called in to the hospital. He said all the medical personnel arrived within 30 to 45 minutes.
“At one point during the assessment, we were going to mobilize Dr. Rohringer and staff to Tinian to provide support but from the assessment response effort that was being done on Tinian, we decided to hold back and stay on Saipan to receive the patients that we received over at ER on Saipan,” Villagomez said.
A U.S. Navy helicopter brought the survivors from Tinian to the Saipan International Airport.
Villagomez said the patients started arriving on Saipan at 12:43pm, and were transported to the Commonwealth Health Center where emergency medical personnel were already waiting.
All the airlifted survivors were conscious when they arrived on Saipan, CHC officials said.
‘Training paying off’
Rohringer said there was an “excellent response” to the Code D call.
“All the surgeons, anesthesia and staff came to assist so there was no manpower shortage at all. Everyone was there promptly. We were actually standing in the hallway when the patients arrived,” the ER doctor said.
Villagomez said the training that CHC has been doing “is really paying off.”
Hirsh of the American Red Cross noted the “very long history of working closely” with the hospital and the leadership.
“We value that partnership It’s really played out today. We had lots of volunteers on site this morning working here at the hospital. We provided disaster mental health to family members and friends, and a cadre of interpreters...” he said.
Also at yesterday’s CHC news briefing were public health and emergency preparedness planner Rosita Waldon, hospital services administrator Jesse Tudela, and American Red Cross disaster volunteer Claudine Atalig.
Muña said CHC may hold another briefing today along with other agencies.
Tinian Health Center director William Cing declined to comment as of yesterday afternoon.