Hero Indonesian air traffic controller sacrifices himself so plane can take off

A young air traffic controller caught in Indonesia's devastating earthquake sacrificed his life so that a plane could safely take off.

Anthonius Gunawan Agung, 21, worked at Mutiara SIS Al-Jufrie Airport on the island of Sulawesi. When the 7.5 magnitude quake struck on Friday (local time), he was in the control tower.

While most staff members fled the tower when the shaking started, Mr Agung chose to stay and guide a Batik Air plane full of passengers which was taxiing on the runway.

Even as the tower began to crumble, he remained at his post issuing instructions to the flight crew so that they could take off and escape the quaking ground.

The earthquake caused 250m of the runway to crack and become unusable, ABC reports.

Once the plane had lifted off safely into the air, Mr Agung attempted to escape the increasingly dangerous tower by jumping from the fourth floor.

He broke his leg and suffered internal injuries in the fall. He was rushed to hospital and there were plans to airlift him to a bigger hospital for emergency treatment, but he died before a helicopter could reach him. 

Air Navigation Indonesia has hailed the late air traffic controller as a hero, saying his actions potentially saved hundreds of lives.

"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," a spokesperson said.

The death toll from the earthquake and ensuing tsunami has reached 400, and is expected to climb sharply as news arrives from remote areas.