News

At least 22 dead as Taiwan plane plunges into river

A dashcam video dramatically captured the moment a plane, a turboprop, hurtled out of control above Taipei's Nanhu Bridge before crashing into the Keelung River yesterday.

Taiwan's official news agency CNA reported that the pilot appeared to try to control the plane as it descended, but the aircraft's wing grazed the overpass, clipping a passing taxi.

The two people in the taxi were injured but in stable condition after being taken to hospital, in the incident just after 11am local time (11am Singapore time), CNA said.

Desperate crew shouted, "Mayday! Mayday! Engine flameout!" according to a recording thought to be the final message from the cockpit to the control tower played on local TV.

"I saw a taxi, probably just metres ahead of me, being hit by one wing of the plane. The plane was huge and really close to me. I'm still trembling," one witness told TVBS news channel.

SURVIVORS

The ATR-72 turboprop plane had just taken off from Taipei Songshan Airport and was heading to the Kinmen islands, just off the coast of the south-eastern Chinese city of Xiamen.

Rescue officials said that 15 survivors had been pulled out of the wreckage, but that 22 people were believed dead and 21 were still missing. Many of those on board were Chinese tourists.

Some passengers appeared to be wearing lifejackets as they waited their turn to board rescue boats.

As time ticked away for those inside the fuselage, rescue boats surrounded the wreckage, which remains in the middle of the river. About 400 soldiers have been drafted in to help, AFP reported.

Emergency crew standing on sections of wreckage tried to pull passengers out of the plane with ropes. Those who were rescued were put in dinghies and taken to the shore.

As night fell, lighting equipment was brought in and a floating bridge would be put up, officials said.

China's Xiamen Daily said on its social media account that the 31 mainlanders on board were part of two tour groups from the eastern Chinese city.

An employee of one of the tour agencies, surnamed Wen, told AFP that it had 15 clients onboard, including three children under 10 and a tour leader.

She said: "We're trying to arrange for the relatives to go to Taiwan."

Mr Lin Chih-ming, head of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration, said the plane was less than a year old and was serviced just over a week ago.

The pilot had 14,000 flying hours and the co-pilot, 4,000 hours, he said.

It was the second serious incident involving a TransAsia Airways plane in a few months.

A flight operated by the domestic airline crashed in July during a storm on the Taiwanese island of Penghu, killing 48 people.

The plane had deviated off course before plunging into the houses after an aborted landing during thunder and heavy rain as Typhoon Matmo pounded Taiwan at the time.

Yesterday, six airline officials, including chief executive Peter Chen, bowed in apology at a televised press conference after the latest incident.

Said Mr Chen: "We would like to convey our apologies to the families (of the victims) and we'd also like to voice huge thanks to rescuers who have been racing against time."


The crash

WHAT

TransAsia Airways crash

WHEN

Yesterday

WHERE

Flight GE235 left Songshan airport in northern Taipei en route to the island of Kinmen

TOLL

At least 22 dead