Local responders were the ones who extricated the four survivors of the ill-fated Star Marianas Piper Cherokee Six aircraft that crashed early Sunday morning in a remote jungle of Tinian.
According to a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam, “responders from Tinian hiked to the aircraft’s location to assist in the extraction of the survivors, vice previous reports that survivors hiked out on their own.”
Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director Maryann Lizama separately confirmed with Saipan Tribune that local elements of the CPA and Department of Public Safety helped rescue the four survivors, who are all Chinese tourists.
She said that CPA and DPS Tinian personnel should be commended for their hard work and determination in reaching the survivors and helping transport them to safety and for further medical attention.
The Coast Guard said that agencies from CNMI and Guam responded to the report of an overdue aircraft between Tinian and Saipan during the early morning of Oct. 6.
“U.S. Coast Guard received a report of a small commuter aircraft that was overdue. The aircraft departed Tinian with six passengers and one pilot, but did not arrive in Saipan as scheduled. Vessels from CNMI Port Authority Harbor Patrol, CNMI Department of Public Safety’s Fire and Rescue, CNMI DPS Boating Safety, and Coast Guard cutter Assateague searched by water and a helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 searched by air. A command post was established [on] Saipan at Puntan Agingan,” the statement reads.
Extensive search efforts throughout the day by USCG, CNMI local responders, and HSC-25 uncovered the crash site for the downed Piper single-engine aircraft on Tinian in the central part of the island, 4 nautical miles off the West Tinian Airport and east of the Voices of America Tower.
“Tinian response crews and HSC-25 were on scene immediately to assess the victims. Four survivors out of the seven total passengers on board were then transported to Saipan’s Commonwealth Health Center.”
It was earlier reported that two of the four survivors are adult females, one adult male, and a 3-year-old girl.
The dead are a 29-year-old male, a 26-year-old female, and the pilot, who sources identified as Luis Silva, a native of Mexico.
Lizama said that Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board officials are coming to Saipan to investigate the crash and take over from the FBI.
Business as usual
Star Marianas continues to operate and a check on the interisland carrier’s dispatcher said their planes are ready to fly as early as 9am today.
According to its website, Star Marianas provides air services between Saipan and Tinian 24 hours each day and the company can provide four aircraft at any given time.
“Additionally, since the flight time between each island is only 10 minutes, larger groups can be reasonably accommodated in relatively short periods of actual time,” according to its website.
NTSB affected by shutdown
Meanwhile, a PDF file from the NTSB website (www.ntsb.gov/Shutdown/Saipan_aviation_accident.pdf) seem to indicate that the agency continues to be affected by the U.S. government shutdown.
“Due to the lapse in funding, NTSB staff are currently furloughed. The agency can engage in those activities necessary to address imminent threats to the safety of human life or for the protection of property,” it reads.
However, after careful consideration, NTSB determined that Sunday’s crash of the Star Marianas plane on Tinian “did meet the criteria for excepting an employee from furlough.”
One air safety investigator has been excepted from furlough status for the purpose of gathering safety critical information.
“In addition, the investigator will make a determination based upon available information regarding any further actions needed to include possible travel to the accident location.”
While an investigator has been excepted, the agency’s public affairs department continues to be affected by the shutdown.
“The NTSB public affairs staff has been furloughed, therefore the NTSB will not be conducting press conferences, issuing press releases or responding to reporters’ questions. In addition, the staff of the Transportation Disaster Assistance office are furloughed and will not be providing support or assistance during this investigation.”