Guam – 3 people were killed on Tinian early Sunday morning after the Star Marianas plane they were in crashed shortly after taking off from West Tinian Airport.
The Spokesman for the CNMI Governor’s Office, Angel Demapan, confirmed for PNC News that the victims are a 29 year old Chinese man, a 26 year old Chinese woman and the pilot. He said the pilot was a male Caucasian and he did not know the age. The identify of the victims has not been released.
The 4 other people on the plane were injured and a Navy helicopter took them from Tinian to Commonwealth Health Center [CHC] hospital on Saipan. 2 of the injured are in critical condition at CHC, the other 2 have been admitted in stable condition, said Demapan.
The plane went down in darkness shortly after 3am Sunday morning about 2 miles east of the Voice of America transmitter towers on Tinian.
Emergency responders had to hike in to the crash site to get the injured out.
The Spokesman for the CNMI Governor’s Office, Angel Demapan, told PNC News the plane went down in a jungle area and there was no access road nearby. “We had to create an access road in,” he said. It wasn’t until later in the morning, after a bulldozer had cleared a path, that rescue vehicles reached the scene.
Sunday afternoon, Coast Guard Search and Rescue Specialist Lee Putnam told PNC that 2 of the bodies were still in the fuselage and one was outside the plane on the ground. The area has been roped off he said and the FBI, acting on behalf of the NTSB, has joined CNMI investigators on the scene.
The cause of the crash has not been determined yet, said Demapan.
The Star Marianas plane that crashed is a Piper PA-32-300 Cherokee Six. According to USCG Lt. Cmdr. Roper, it flew to Tinian shortly after 2am Sunday to pick up 6 passengers for a return flight to Saipan. It took off from West Tinian Airport at 2:41am en-route back to Saipan International Airport. Lt. Cmdr. Roper said the last communication from the plane was at 3:12am and it was a routine, not a distress call.
The flight to Saipan is roughly 15 minutes. At 3:15am, the Commonwealth Ports Authority notified CNMI Homeland Security Emergency Management that the plane was overdue.
Second Crash of a Star Marianas Plane in Less Than a Year
This is the second time a Star Marianas plane has crashed in the CNMI in less than a year.
On November 19, 2012, 1 person was killed and 6 others injured when a Star Marianas Piper PA-32 Cherokee Six crashed on Saipan at 6:15am. The plane was heading for Tinian when it crashed and caught fire just off the runway shortly after lift off.
Command Center for Search and Rescue Set Up at Agingan Point on Saipan
A command center was set up at Agingan Point to coordinate the search and rescue operation for the crash on Tinian. That effort is still ongoing.
Initially it was thought that the plane went down in the water and a U.S. Navy helicopter and 4 other vessels began searching the Tinian channel between Saipan and Tinian. Those vessels involved in the search included the USCG Cutter Assateague and boats from the CNMI Port Authority Harbor Patrol, the CNMI Department of Public Safety (DPS) Fire and Rescue, and the CNMI DPS Boating Safety division.
[Photo courtesy Saipan Tribune]
[L-R: At the Command Post on Saipan Sunday – Homeland Security Emergency Management Special Adviser Marvin Seman, Gov. Eloy S. Inos, Press Secretary Angel Demapan, and Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Perry Tenorio at the Agingan Point Cmmand Post]
READ the release from the USCG below:
CLARIFICATION: CREWS SEARCHING FOR OVERDUE AIRCRAFT
Saipan, CNMI — Agencies from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Guam, responded to the report of an overdue aircraft between Tinian and Saipan, which is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Bureau of Investigations.
During the early morning of October 6, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam 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 (DPS) Fire and Rescue, CNMI DPS Boating Safety, and Coast Guard Cutter ASSATEAGUE searched by water and a helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Two Five HSC-25 searched by air. A command post was established in Saipan at Puntan Agingan.
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. 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. Their status and further information on the individuals is pending next of kin notification. The FAA will be the main point of contact for the details regarding the investigation and CNMI for condition of the survivors.
Responders from Tininan hiked to the aircraft’s location to assist in the extraction of the survivors, vice previous reports that survivors hiked out on their own.
The FAA may be contacted at 202-267-3455 and CNMI may be contacted at 670-237-8000 for further details.