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Air traffic controller hailed as hero for sacrificing his life to save hundreds of others in Indonesian earthquake

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A young Indonesian air traffic controller is being hailed as a hero after a devastating earthquake and tsunami there killed hundreds of people.

Anthonius Gunawan Agung, 21, was the only person left in the control tower at the Air Traffic Tower of Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu when the magnitude-7.5 quake struck the coastal city on Friday.

Agung stayed behind as his colleagues evacuated the building fearing for their safety. The  flight control tower started to sway and walls started to crack as it was hit by the earthquake. But Agung bravely guided a Batik Air flight to take off safely. He then jumped from a fourth floor window of the tower believing that it would collapse.

Agung broke his leg and suffered internal injuries in the fall. His colleagues rushed him to the nearest hospital before a doctor recommended he be taken out of the city to get better treatment. Agung died before a helicopter could take him to another hospital for specialty care on Saturday morning. He was just a month shy of his 22nd birthday.

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“He gave clearance for this flight, and if he left his post before the plane was airborne, hundreds of people inside the plane might be in danger,” said Yohannes Sirait, spokesman for Air Navigation Indonesia.

The pilot of the flight, Ricosetta Mafella, praised the air traffic controller for his bravery saying: ‘Batik 6231 runway 33 clear for take off’. This was his last transmission to me then we replied. Thank you for keeping me and guarding me till I’m safely airborne. Then he jumped out of tower broke his leg and arm. Wing of honor for Anthonius Gunawan Agung as my guardian angel at Palu. Rest peacefully my wing man. God be with you.”

Indonesian solders were on hand in full uniform Saturday to carry the coffiin of Anthonius Gunawan Agung.

Hailing Agung as a hero, his former employers said: “We felt a deep heartbreak, may God give Anthonius the best place beside him, along with other victims of Donggala earthquake. He is being referred to as Anthonius the Great by many in the country.

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