SMALL PLANE LANDS IN HAGATNA BAY

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By Sunmi Kang

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 17) РThree people survived an emergency water landing in East Hag̴ṯa Bay yesterday morning after the [small] plane they were in encountered engine trouble.

Local businessman Minoru Miyaji, 58, who piloted the plane, said shortly after taking off from Guam airport at around 11 a.m. yesterday, his Cessna 172 single-engine plane started experiencing engine trouble. A few moments later, the engines shut down, and he was forced to land in Hagåtña Bay, he said.

Miyaji, the owner of Micronesian Aviation Systems, which operates out of the A. B. Won Pat Guam International Airport, said he glided into the bay around 11:10 a.m. and then landed about 50 feet from the shore. All three on board the plane were able to escape from the four-seater plane with the help of employees from a nearby water recreation business and emergency personnel.

Guam police and fire rescue responded to the scene. The U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Aviation Administration and Guam airport officials also were on hand, according to Guam Police Department spokesman Officer Allan Guzman.

As of yesterday afternoon, the small white plane was still in the bay. Lee Putnam, Search and Rescue specialist with the U.S. Coast Guard, said it is Miyaji's responsibility to remove the plane.

He said the Coast Guard came to the scene to check for potential pollution resulting from the landing, but it did not report any significant findings.

Miyaji and his two Japanese tourist passengers reported no significant injuries to attending officers, said Guzman. Both passengers, a married couple, were taken to Guam Memorial Hospital and later released yesterday afternoon.

Miyaji, still soaking from the experience, stayed at the scene of the landing to answer questions from various officials. Other than having a small scratch on the bottom of his chin, he said he did not feel any pain. He said he was happy to be safe and out of the water.

"Everything's OK," he said.

Masayoshi Yamasaki, 42, who witnessed the emergency landing, said he was outside preparing to barbecue when he noticed the small airplane gradually descending from the sky into the clear water.

Yamasaki, who owns and operates nearby business Mauleg Marine Sports, said the plane did not seem distressed as it slowly lost altitude and eventually landed into the shallow water nose first. He added that some of his staff, who happened to be out at the time riding personal watercraft, were able to swim over and help the passengers.

GPD Special Weapons and Tactics Officer Ron Corpuz was one of the first people on the scene. Corpuz and six other SWAT officers were returning from a ceremony at the Tinta and Faha Memorials in Merizo when they received a call about a downed plane.

Corpuz, who was still in his Class A regalia, which is customary for 21-gun salutes, said he and his fellow officers jumped into the water to aid the three passengers of the fallen plane as soon as they arrived.

"This is definitely going to be a Sunday I remember," he said.

FAA Air Traffic Manager Tim Cornelison said officials continue to investigate the case.

July 17, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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