Pilot hails ‘hero’ air traffic controller

“He is our national hero,” says Batik Airways pilot Ricosetta Mafella.

He is describing the Indonesian air traffic controller whose last act before he died was making sure the plane Mr Mafella was piloting safely escaped the earthquake and tsunami which has devastated Palu in Indonesia.

Mr Mafella believes Mr Agung may have saved his life and those of his passengers. He has described him as a “guardian angel”.

On Friday afternoon, Anthonius Gunawan Agung, 21, was at the control tower of Palu airport as Mr Mafella’s Batik Airways plane was on the runway.

“I was rushing to leave. There was a voice in my head that told me, just get out of here immediately,” said Mr Mafella, 44. “I told my crew and the ground crew to speed up.”

At 18:02, the plane took off. Less than a minute later, the 7.5 magnitude quake struck.

As the control tower started to shake, people around Mr Agung fled, but he watched to make sure the plane was airborne.

His last words were “Batik 6321 clear for take off”.

Then, apparently finding his way out blocked, he jumped from the crumbling tower. He died while awaiting treatment.

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