Air Niugini insists there is evidence that a missing passenger from the Boeing 737-800 which undershot on approach to Chuuk did safely exit the jet.
Thirty-five passengers and, unusually, 12 crew members had been on board the aircraft when it came down during its approach on 28 September, coming to rest 145m from the runway.
The airline’s chairman, Kostas Constantinou, says that the missing passenger still remains unaccounted-for.
But he says that an inspection of the “entire submerged cabin” by US Navy personnel has “further corroborated” eyewitness reports that the passenger boarded a rescue dinghy during the evacuation.
“Local authorities and the airline are continuing to search for the whereabouts of the missing passenger,” says Constantinou.
Four passengers remain hospitalised in Chuuk and will shortly be transported for treatment in Guam.
Video images of the moments after the crash, as rescuers approached the aircraft from the starboard side, indicate that the aircraft suffered engine damage and a fracture in its aft fuselage.
Constantinou refers to “poor visibility” and “bad weather” at the time of the accident.
Records from Papua New Guinea’s air accident investigation commission show that the 737-800 (P2-PXE) was also involved in a minor accident just over four months ago.
It had been parked at Port Moresby’s Jacksons airport on 12 May when its starboard winglet was damaged by the left wing of a taxiing Lockheed Martin L-382 Hercules, shortly after it arrived from Komo on a charter flight.
At the time the 737 was parked an unoccupied. The accident is still under investigation.