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Valor and Duty Without Equal

Young Indonesian Air Traffical Controller Loses His Life Assisting Batik Air Flight Taking Off as a 7.7 magnitude Earthquake Strikes in Palu, Central Sulawesi

Among the many tragic stories of loss of life and injuries resulting from the 7.7 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami in the Palu-Donggala areas of Central Sulawesi on Friday, September 28, 2018, there is one story of professional dedication and quiet courage in the face of death that stands out and warrants retelling.

21-year-old Anthonius Gunawan Agung was at his job as a newly-minted air traffic controller at Palu’s Mutiara SIS Al-Jufri Airport guiding Batik Air 6231 through its take-off roll when the 7.7 earthquake struck. Agung was standing before his navigation and communication panel on the 4th floor of the control tower as the Batik Air pilot, aware of the developing earthquake, sought urgent ATC clearance as he hurriedly commenced his acceleration down the runway. Watching the airplane speed down the runway, Agung remained steadfastly at his post monitoring the departing aircraft as the control tower begain to sway violently and dismantle around him.

Others on duty in various parts of the control tower quickly ran outside to safety, screaming to their co-worker to also flee the building and join them in the relative safety of the open ground surrounding the crumbling tower.

A spokesman for AirNav Indonesia, Yohanes Sirait, told CNN Indonesia that the young controller refused to leave his post until he could confirm that the Batik Air flight was safely off the runway.  The passenger aircraft safely in the air and as the building collapsed beneath him, Agung finally tried to flee to safety, desperately deciding to leap from the 4th floor of the control tower.

Agung suffered severe injuries in the jump, including, among others, a broken leg.He was brought to a local hospital where a decision was made to evacuate the young man by helicopter to Balikpapan (Kalimantan)  on Saturday, the following day. But before Agung could be flown out, his condition deteriorated and he died in Palu.

A popular young man among his Airport coworkers, Agung remained remarkably calm in guiding the Batik Air flight to safety.

The transcript of Agung’s last radio transmission with the Captain of Batik Air 6231:

Agung:                           “Batik 6231. Runway 33 cleared for take off.”

Captain Batik Air 6231:    “Thank you for letting me take off. God be with you. So sad and so Sorry.”

When the Captain later learned that the courageous young air controller had died guiding his plane to safety he was moved to tears.

The fourth floor of the control tower where Agung was on duty suffered severe damage with the navigation and communication equipment destroyed in the earthquake. The Palu airport has been declared temporarily closed until further notice.

AirNav who employed Anthonius Gunawan Agung have flown his remains to Makassar and onward to Abepura in Papua, his hometown.

An AirNav spokesperson said Agung showed extraordinary dedication to duty in order that the Batik Air Flight could depart safely from Palu.

Borrowing from John Gilespie Magee. Jr, we believe that Anthonius Gunawan Agung now resides in the high untrespassed sanctity of space, where only recently he stretched out his hand to touch the face of a loving God who immediately cleared him for landing.