Indonesia quake: Pilot hails take-off ‘guardian angel’ who died
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Indonesia quake: Pilot hails take-off ‘guardian angel’ who died

TRIBUTES have poured in for the Indonesian air traffic controller who ensured a passenger plane took off safely before he jumped off the tower when an earthquake struck on Friday.

The pilot of the aircraft, Ricoseta Mafella of Batik Air, hailed 21-year-old Anthonius Gunawan Agung, as a “guardian angel” for staying behind in the crumbling four-story control tower in Palu, Sulawesi, when the earth shook violently.

Anthonius was among at least 1,230 people who died in the devastating 7.5-magnitude quake and tsunami that struck the northeastern island of Sulawesi.

Anthonius’s last words, according to pilot Mafella, were: “Batik 6231, runway 33, clear for takeoff.”

SEE ALSO: Indonesian quake, tsunami sparked mass prison break in Sulawesi 

“He was saying it in a very calm manner, because the earthquake hadn’t started yet,” Ricoseta said, as quoted by Reuters.

When disaster struck, Agung did not follow others leaving the crumbling four-storey control tower at Palu airport.

“I felt that the aircraft was moving slightly to the right and to the left,” Ricotta said.


An officer loads aids and medicine into an ATR 72-500 aircraft for the victims of earthquake and tsunami, at Pondok Cabe airport in South Tangerang, Indonesia October 2, 2018, in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Source: Reuters

Anthonius waited for the plane, bound from Palu to Makassar, to become airborne before leaving the control tower, authorities said.

“He stayed… until the last of my departure, until the tower was shaking very bad,” Ricoseta added. “Once he made sure that the aircraft had departed safely, he jumped from his tower to the lower level.”

The air traffic controller broke his arm, leg and ribs in the fall and died from his injuries, authorities said.

SEE ALSO: #PrayForPalu: How you can help Indonesia tsunami victims 

Air Navigation Indonesia said in a statement that it would posthumously raise Agung’s rank by two levels as a sign of appreciation. The company tweeted out images showing Agung’s body being carried to a helicopter during his funeral procession in Makassar.

Indonesians praised Anthonius online, with many saying his story had brought them to tears. Several artists created tributes in his honour that was widely circulated on social media.

“I think he did a very heroic action, he did his job professionally, and I think he should be honoured,” Ricoseta said.

“I call him my guardian angel.”