An Indonesian air traffic controller who refused to abandon his post amid a cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami is being praised as a hero after he was killed in the disaster.
Anthonius Gunawan Agung was the last officer on-duty in the air traffic control tower as chaos struck the city of Palu on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, Agence France-Presse reports.
According to officials, the 21-year-old dispatcher declined to join his colleagues in evacuating until he cleared the last flight out for take off.
“When the quake happened, he was giving clearance to Batik Air to take off and waited for the plane to be safely airborne before finally leaving the ATC cabin tower,” said AirNav Indonesia spokesman Yohanes Harry Sirait.
Sulawesi was roiled by a series of tremors Friday that culminated in a magnitude 7.5 earthquake and created a tsunami. Palu was struck with walls of water 20 feet high, the Associated Press reports. The death toll from the disaster surpassed 840 on Monday as first responders grew desperate to exhume bodies from the wreckage. Many more are feared dead in isolated areas, and rescuers are racing against time to locate survivors.
On Friday, Anthonius was ultimately forced to jump from the four-story air traffic tower as the building collapsed. He broke his leg and suffered serious internal injuries, and later died in an emergency helicopter en route to a hospital.
The intrepid controller was posthumously promoted two ranks in recognition for his sacrifice, AirNav said in a statement. A local TV station also hailed his “heroic act.”
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