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The plane that crash-landed Friday in a remote Pacific lagoon was operated by Air Niugini, an airline that's hardly a household name but provides crucial links between isolated Melanesian outposts in the Pacific and the rest of the world.

Air Niugini chairman Kosta Constaninou said witnesses reported seeing the passenger board a dinghy as USA divers and locals rescued the passengers and crew from the sinking plane.

The passengers managed to escape from the plane, and locals arrived shortly on small boats to assist with the rescue operation.

"There's a badly injured guy on the other side", one man said, relaying the message to an another vessel approaching the sinking plane.

"I was really impressed with the locals who immediately started coming out in boats", he said in an interview with a Baptist missionary in Chuuk, Matthew Colson, who recorded the rescue effort and posted his interview with Jaynes on Facebook. Air Niugini said the weather was bad, it was raining hard and unclear vision at the time the accident happened. "I thought "this is not the way it's supposed to happen".

There were also two Australians who, according to a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson, did not request any consular assistance from the Australian embassy in Pohnpei.

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Bill Jaynes, managing editor of a Micronesia-based newspaper, was on the plane when it hit the water. But their total land area is only four times the size of the US capital.

Residents in small boats rushed to the crash site to save passengers and crew members from the sinking aircraft, an official said.

Air Niugini's chairman, Sir Kostas Constantinou, last night said one passenger remained unaccounted for.

"Careful because I don't know how deep this is", one man said as the camera moves inside the half-sunk plane, the team sloshing past rows of seats submerged up to the armrests.

Air Niugini scheduled a special flight "to allow those passengers who wish to complete their trip to Port Moresby and onward to their final destinations".