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"It was just surreal": American describes being in plane that missed the runway

Passenger describes plane crash
Air Niugini plane crash: American passenger describes plane missing runway 01:57

Investigators are trying to figure out how a Boeing 737 missed the runway on a small remote island in Micronesia and ended up in the ocean.

Local fisherman were bringing in the day's catch when the 737 went down. A flotilla of small boats raced to help, pulling people from the water and bringing them to shore.

"I'm alive. That's an extremely good thing," said Bill Jaynes, an American who was one 47 people on board.

"It was just surreal. I thought we landed hard until I looked over and saw a hole in the side of the plane and water was coming in," Jaynes said. "I thought, well, this is not the way it's supposed to happen."

People are evacuated from an Air Niugini plane crashed in the waters in Weno, Chuuk, Micronesia
People are evacuated from an Air Niugini plane crashed in the waters in Weno, Chuuk, Micronesia, September 28, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. Reuters

The Air Niugini flight was on approach Thursday when the airline says it "landed short" of the runway on Chuuk Island by about a quarter of a mile, coming down in the waters of the Pacific lagoon that surround the island. On a map, it's a dot in the South Pacific, known for its scuba diving of WWII shipwrecks and home to about 50,000 people.

U.S. sailors were working on improving a wharf nearby, and one snapped a picture as they helped shuttle survivors to shore. Several passengers were injured -- one critically -- but everyone survived.

The pictures of the plane resting in the water and boats rescuing passengers bring back memories of the "Miracle on the Hudson" in 2009, where U.S. Airways pilots successfully landed on the river after bird strikes knocked out both engines.

"We were able to get out, the water was only up to about here on me, inside the plane, and we went out the emergency exit doors," Jaynes said. "I was really impressed with the locals who immediately started coming out in boats. One would think they might be afraid of approaching the plane that's just crashed."

The airline said weather was poor at the time of the landing with heavy rain and low visibility. Divers are working to recover the plane's black boxes and the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration will assist with the investigation.

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