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No passengers injured when plane slid off runway at Tonga airport

Lulutai Airline Saab 340 aircraft
Source: RNZ Pacific

Nuku'alofa, TONGA — Passengers on board a Lulutai Airlines Saab 340 aircraft were unharmed when the plane slid off the runway at Tonga's Fua'amotu airport on Friday, the airline says.

One man was seen being carried off the plane by responding soldiers, and the staff on the ground said passengers were visibly upset, Matangi Tonga news said.

"At approximately 2pm (local time), after landing safely at Fua'amotu domestic airport, and while on the apron [taxiing] back to the terminal, upon turning, the Saab 340 experienced a technical issue," Lulutai Airlines said in a statement.

"The aircraft turned and hit a cement block on the side of the apron. The aircraft's wing became lodged on the cement block."

"There were 35 passengers on board. No passengers were injured or physically harmed."

A passenger told Matangi Tonga the Lulutai flight had reached Vava'u, and an announcement was made that they were landing.

"All of a sudden the plane changes direction and all we were seeing was the ocean," the passenger said, according to Matangi Tonga's report.

"The pilot then announced that we were returning to Fua'amotu Airport because there was a 'technical issue' with the plane.

"I asked the air hostess, and she said it was a problem with the hydraulic," the passenger said.

The incident is now under investigation by the airline and the Ministry of Infrastructure's civil aviation department.

The airline said it was also contacting affected passengers who "may wish to cancel, reschedule or refund their flights" and it was making "every effort" to meet Tonga's air travel demand.

"Lulutai Airlines apologises to all passengers affected and asks for their patience and cooperation in the coming weeks.