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This Air Traffic Controller Died After Guiding A Plane To Safety During The Earthquake In Indonesia

"During the last phase of my takeoff, he was still on that tower waiting for me to go up," the pilot of the plane told BuzzFeed News. "That's why I call him my guardian angel."

Posted on October 1, 2018, at 10:50 a.m. ET

An air traffic controller has died after staying in the control tower to guide a passenger plane to safety during the earthquake in Indonesia last week.

The magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck the island of Sulawesi and triggered a 10-foot tsunami that has killed more than 800 people and injured hundreds more.The death toll is expected to rise to the thousands as search and rescue efforts continue.
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The magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck the island of Sulawesi and triggered a 10-foot tsunami that has killed more than 800 people and injured hundreds more.

The death toll is expected to rise to the thousands as search and rescue efforts continue.

Anthonius Gunawan Agung made sure that the plane had safely taken off before he jumped from the crumbling control tower at Palu Airport.

The 21-year-old broke his legs, arms, and ribs and died from internal injuries on his way to the hospital.
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The 21-year-old broke his legs, arms, and ribs and died from internal injuries on his way to the hospital.

The pilot of the plane, Ricoseta Mafella, told BuzzFeed News that he had no idea that his flight had taken off the exact minute the earthquake struck.

His Batik Air flight was traveling from Palu to Makasar and carried 140 people on board."A few seconds before liftoff, I felt a bit of a swing on the left and right side of the plane, but I thought it was just runway conditions," Mafella said.
Ricoseta Mafella

His Batik Air flight was traveling from Palu to Makasar and carried 140 people on board.

"A few seconds before liftoff, I felt a bit of a swing on the left and right side of the plane, but I thought it was just runway conditions," Mafella said.

Mafella said that it was only after the plane was airborne that he noticed giant waves forming on the shore.

Instagram: @icoze_ricochet

"I saw circles getting bigger and bigger," he said. "I thought it was very strange but didn't realize that it was an earthquake and tsunami.

"At 4,000 to 5,000 feet, I did a left turn and contacted air traffic control, but received no response."

After he landed, Mafella saw the news and asked in a group chat of air traffic controllers and pilots why he hadn't received a response from air traffic control.

Instagram: @icoze_ricochet

"They told me the exact answer: The guy jumped from the tower because of the earthquake," Mafella said.

"They said people tried to call him to get away from the tower, but he said, 'No, the aircraft isn't airborne yet.' Then the roof started collapsing and he jumped.

"They said that during the last phase of my takeoff, he was still on that tower waiting for me to go up."

"The job of air traffic control is to make sure the aircraft is safe on the runway," Mafella said.

Telah wafat saat menjalankan tugasnya sebagai personel layanan navigasi penerbangan, Saudara Anthonius Gunawan Agung, Air Traffic Controller (ATC) AirNav Indonesia Cabang Palu pada Sabtu (29/09). #RIPAgung #DoaUntukSulteng #PrayforDonggala #PrayforPalu https://t.co/6Wpobp3R7m

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"He's the only guy I can talk to. If I need assistance or backup during takeoff, he's the only one who can visually see the plane from the outside," the pilot said.

"In this difficult time, during the split seconds of decisions, he waited for me until I was safe before he jumped. That's why I call him my guardian angel."

Mafella then shared a video he shot of the tsunami at around 1,500 feet to his Instagram, along with a photo of Agung with the following caption:

The post has since gone viral on Instagram with more than 25,000 likes.
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The post has since gone viral on Instagram with more than 25,000 likes.

People called Agung a hero.

And started paying tribute.

My heart breaks. Thank you, Anthonius Gunawan Agung. Thank you.

A heroic act. Safe flight to Heaven, Agung. Rest In Peace. 🙏🏽 https://t.co/Cez835sWJh

#RIPAgung. A true hero. Sometimes a hero doesn't need to wear a cape... "That Others May Live". https://t.co/xB41HjcOUE

Agung has since been posthumously promoted two levels by Air Navigation Indonesia.

BuzzFeed News has contacted Air Navigation Indonesia for comment.

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