Story by MCC Matthew White, 30th Naval Construction Regiment
SANTA RITA, Guam – After responding and rendering aid to the passengers and crew of Air Niugini flight PX56 following its crash landing in Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia Sept. 28, Sailors from Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2 continued their humanitarian efforts by donating blood to the injured.
As the immediate rescue operation wound down and local authorities took over control of the incident, the Sailors regrouped and explored other ways to support the survivors and authorities at the scene.
The team was later informed that three of the critically injured passengers at the Chuuk State Hospital intensive care unit needed blood a blood transfusion. After quickly canvassing the Sailors to see who had the right type of blood, three volunteers from UCT-2 rushed to the hospital where they each donated a pint of blood to the patients.
On the morning of Sept. 28, while working on a construction project near the airport, UCT-2 Sailors displayed their training, readiness and teamwork in dramatic fashion by instantly responding to help rescue the airline’s passengers and crew, and continuing to care for the injured following their safe evacuation from the sinking aircraft.
While Construction Mechanic 1st Class John Monahan led a group of six Sailors to the partially submerged Boeing 737 before the emergency doors had even opened, Chief Hospital Corpsman Erich Weber was on shore, setting up a triage point to treat or move patients.
“As soon as we reported to the boat ramp, a boat full of patients came ashore. We triaged the worst of the group to our vehicle, one of which was conscious but in the fetal position due to severity of injuries [and] pain,” said Weber, independent duty corpsman assigned to UCT-2.
Back on the slowly sinking aircraft, UCT-2 Sailors entered the plane to conduct a sweep of the passenger compartment and crew areas. Builder 3rd Class Brock Farmer needed to swim through the aircraft’s interior to complete the inspection before the Sailors exited the plane, as fears arose the airliner would soon sink.
The teamwork didn’t end with the initial response from UCT-2. The United States Coast Guard flew a C-130 aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, to Chuuk to medevac the patients in critical condition from flight PX56 to U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, where they received medical care.
The Coast Guard also sent a disaster medical assistance team, consisting of six doctors, to Chuuk, to assist local medical officials treat injured passengers who remained on the island. FSM authorities have requested assistance from the U.S. Navy to recover the aircraft’s flight data recorders, which may reveal the reason behind the plane’s crash landing.
UCT-2 is in Chuuk providing a range of operations improving the wharf area, including inspecting of existing navigational aids; assessment of the wharf; and placing environmental offsets at popular scuba diving sites which will protect the coral reef from damage due to boat anchors.
UCT-2 provides construction, inspection, repair, and maintenance of waterfront and ocean facilities in support of Naval and Marine Corps operations. Underwater Construction Technicians have the unique ability of providing shallow and deep water repairs, as well as being a highly skilled construction force.