Yesterday’s Star Marianas crash that claimed three lives and injured four others was the third and worst incident involving the same airline three days in a row starting Friday afternoon followed by another one early Saturday morning, barely 11 months since another Star Marianas crash that killed one and injured six others.
The early Sunday crash is believed to be the worst commercial aviation incident in the CNMI since at least the early ‘90s.
In two years, there were also incident of flat tires and engines dying while still on the tarmac, sources said.
Star Marianas confirmed in a media release early Sunday morning that the plane involved was a Piper PA-32-300 Cherokee 6 aircraft.
Last year’s crash also involved a Piper Cherokee aircraft.
On Friday afternoon, a smaller Star Marianas aircraft made an emergency landing “on Broadway Avenue past the Tinian airport heading north.”
“There was no injury,” one of the sources said.
On early Saturday morning, a Star Marianas aircraft also “fell off on a manhole or a ditch at the Tinian airport,” sources said. There was no injury reported.
The two were still being inspected when the third and fatal incident occurred early yesterday morning when a Star Marianas aircraft crashed in a jungle east of the Voices of America Tower on Tinian.
The Star Marianas aircraft left Tinian Airport at 2:41am Sunday, for what was supposed to be a 15-minute or so flight to Saipan.
The aircraft didn’t reach the Saipan International Airport at the expected time, prompting response not only from Star Marianas but also from CNMI and federal agencies.
The Star Marianas plane was carrying six passengers and one pilot.
Three perished in yesterday’s crash—the male pilot, a 29-year-old Chinese male, and a 26-year-old Chinese female.
The bodies remained at the hard-to-access crash site at around 5pm yesterday, before they were brought to Saipan later in the evening.
The four survivors were airlifted to Saipan by a U.S. Navy helicopter early Sunday afternoon, for treatment at the Commonwealth Health Center.
In the morning of Nov. 19, 2012, a Star Marianas aircraft crashed as it landed at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport from Tinian, killing a Chinese tourist.
Star Marianas Air executive vice president Shaun Christian said at the time that it was the first-ever in the history of the company’s operations since 1999.
Despite the two fatal plane crashes in less than a year, government officials and residents said the CNMI remains a safe place for travel, considering that each of the planes involved had over 4,000 takeoffs and landings a month.
Still, others believe the crash will have an impact on interisland travel and tourism in general but they’re hoping it will be short-lived.