TransAsia in Taiwan river... plane cartwheel over motorway [video] - Emirates24|7

TransAsia in Taiwan river... plane cartwheel over motorway [video]

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Latest:  Rescuers use crane in Taiwan river to hoist wreckage of plane that crashed .

News agencies are now reporting 25 dead.

Plane cartwheels into river on take-off.

Dramatic footage shows stricken plane's wing clipping motorway.

Passengers swim, wade away from submerged wreckage.

Thirty-one mainland Chinese among 58 on board.  

LATEST UPDATED REPORT

Rescuers hoist crashed Taiwanese plane from river to search for missing; at least 25 dead

Rescuers used a crane to hoist a wrecked TransAsia Airways plane from a shallow river in Taiwan's capital late Wednesday as they searched into the night for 18 people missing in a crash that killed at least 25 others.

Flight 235 with 58 people aboard — most of them travellers from China — banked sharply on its side shortly after takeoff from Taipei, clipped a highway bridge and then careened into the Keelung River.

Rescuers in rubber rafts pulled 15 people from the wreckage during daylight. After dark, they brought in the crane, and the death toll was expected to rise once crews were able to search through previously submerged portions of the fuselage, which came to rest a few dozen metres from the shore.

Dramatic video clips apparently taken from cars were posted online and aired by broadcasters, showing the ATR 72 propjet as it pivoted onto its side while zooming toward a traffic bridge over the river. In one of them, the plane rapidly fills the frame as its now-vertical wing scrapes over the road, hitting a vehicle before heading into the river.

Speculation cited in local media said the crew may have turned sharply to follow the line of the river to avoid crashing into a high-rise residential area, but Taiwan's aviation authority said it had no evidence of that.

Taiwanese broadcasters repeatedly played a recording of the plane's final contact with the control tower in which the crew called out ‘Mayday’ three times. The recording offered no direct clues as to why the plane was in distress.

It was the airline's second French-Italian-built ATR 72 to crash in the past year. Wednesday's flight had taken off at 11:53 a.m. from Taipei's downtown Sungshan Airport en route to the outlying Taiwanese-controlled Kinmen islands. The crew issued the mayday call shortly after takeoff, Taiwanese civil aviation authorities said.

TransAsia director Peter Chen said contact with the plane was lost four minutes after takeoff. He said weather conditions were suitable for flying and the cause of the accident was unknown.

"Actually this aircraft in the accident was the newest model. It hadn't been used for even a year," he told a news conference.

Thirty-one passengers were from China, Taiwan's tourism bureau said. Kinmen's airport is a common link between Taipei and China's Fujian province.

Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration said 23 people were confirmed dead, 15 were rescued with injuries and 20 were still missing.

Wu Jun-hong, a Taipei Fire Department official who was coordinating the rescue, said the missing people were either still in the fuselage or had perhaps been pulled down the river.

"At the moment, things don't look too optimistic," Wu told reporters at the scene. "Those in the front of the plane are likely to have lost their lives."

Rescuers could be seen pulling luggage from an open plane door to clear the fuselage. Ten inflatable dinghies also searched for the missing.

As a drizzle fell around nightfall, military crews took portable bridges to the scene, where rescue workers were building docks for easier access to the wreckage. About 300 rescue personnel and members of the media stood along the banks of the narrow river.

Part of the freeway above it was littered with debris and was closed after the crash.

Relatives of the victims had not reached the scene by dusk Wednesday but some were expected to arrive Thursday, including some flying from Beijing.

The plane's wing hit a taxi on the freeway, and the driver and a passenger were injured, Chen said.

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence said it had sent 165 people and eight boats to the riverside rescue scene, joining fire department rescue crews.

Another ATR 72 operated by the same Taipei-based airline crashed in the outlying Taiwan-controlled islands of Penghu last July 23, killing 48 at the end of a typhoon for reasons that are still under investigation.

ATR, a French-Italian consortium based in Toulouse, France, said it was sending a team to Taiwan to help in the investigation.

The ATR 72-600 that crashed Wednesday is manufacturer's best plane model, and the pilot had 4,900 hours of flying experience, said Lin Chih-ming of the Civil Aeronautics Administration.

Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor at ‘Flightglobal’ magazine in Singapore, said the ATR 72-600 is the latest iteration of one of the most popular turboprop planes in the world, particularly favored for regional short-hop flights in Asia.

It has a generally good reputation for safety and reliability and is known among airlines for being cheap and efficient to operate.

While it's too early to say what caused the crash, engine trouble or weight shifting were unlikely to be causes, Waldron said. Other possible factors include pilot error, weather or freak incidents such as bird strikes.

"It's too early now to speculate on whether it was an issue with the aircraft or crew," Waldron said.

The accessibility of the crash site should allow for a swift investigation, and an initial report should be available within about a month, Waldron said.

EARLIER REPORT

At least 25 people were killed Wednesday when a turboprop passenger plane operated by TransAsia Airways clipped an overpass and plunged into a river in Taiwan, in the airline's second crash in just seven months.

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 television.

A ‘flameout’ is when the flame that normally burns in the engine goes out, causing engine failure. Twin-engined planes are usually able to fly on one engine.

Aviation officials said they had not released the cockpit recording, suggesting that it may have come from amateurs monitoring the radio.

Dramatic amateur video footage showed the TransAsia ATR 72-600 hit an elevated road as it banked side-long towards the water, leaving a trail of debris including a smashed taxi.

"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.

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.

It was the second serious incident involving a TransAsia Airways plane in a few months after another flight operated by the domestic airline crashed in July during a storm, killing 48 people.

'Racing against time'


Wednesday's accident happened just before 11:00 am (0300 GMT), shortly after Flight GE235 left Songshan airport in northern Taipei en route to the island of Kinmen with 58 people on board, including five crew members.

Six airline officials including chief executive Peter Chen bowed in apology at a televised press conference.

"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," said Chen, confirming that 13 people had been killed.

Lin Kuan-cheng from the National Fire Agency later said that 13 people were dead and nine showing ‘no signs of life’ -- the term used before death is officially confirmed.

Those missing are thought to be trapped inside the submerged front section of the plane.

"The focus of our work is to try to use cranes to lift the front part of the wreckage, which is submerged under the water and is where most of the other passengers are feared trapped," a senior rescue official told reporters at the scene.

There has been no official comment on the cause of the crash, but the black boxes have been retrieved.

Several former pilots told local media that the plane's sideways flip while in the air could have been caused by the failure of one of the engines.

Desperate rescue

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

Emergency crews 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.

Xiamen is in Fujian province, which lies across the Taiwan Strait from the island.

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.

"It's an emergency," she said. "We're working with different work teams. We're trying to arrange for the relatives to go to Taiwan."

TransAsia's Chen said that of the 31 passengers from the mainland, three were children.

The rest of the passengers and crew were Taiwanese, according to the airline.

Aviation officials said the plane crashed minutes after taking off Songshan airport, after losing contact with the control tower.

Lin Chih-ming, head of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration, said the ATR 72-600 was less than a year old and was last serviced just over a week ago.

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

The airline said they had received the plane in April last year and it was the newest model of the ATR.

In last July's crash, the 48 people were killed when another domestic TransAsia flight crashed onto houses during a storm on the Taiwanese island of Penghu.

The ATR 72-500 turboprop plane 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.

EARLIER REPORT

A TransAsia plane carrying 58 passengers and crew crashed into a river in downtown Taipei shortly after take-off, Taiwan's fire department said on Wednesday. Of the 58 on board, 28 were rescued, the fire department said in a text message. At least 22 people are said to have died..

 

Rescuers scrambled to reach around 30 people trapped in the wreckage of a passenger plane which clipped a road bridge and plunged into a river outside Taiwan's capital Wednesday, leaving at least 11 feared dead.

It was the second serious incident involving a TransAsia Airways plane in a few months after another flight operated by the domestic airline crashed in July during a storm, killing 48 people.

Dramatic amateur video footage from Wednesday's accident showed the TransAsia ATR 72-600 turboprop plane hit the road bridge as it banked side-long towards the water, leaving a trail of debris including a smashed taxi.

The accident happened just before 11:00 am (0300 GMT), shortly after Flight GE235 left Songshan airport in northern Taipei en route to the island of Kinmen, with 58 people on board including five crew members.

Lin Kuan-cheng, an official at the national fire agency, told AFP that one person was confirmed dead and another 10 were showing "no signs of life". Unconfirmed TV reports said 12 people had been killed.

 


These pictures claim to show moments before the crash. (Pic credit: Gigi Graciette ‏@GigiGraciette Twitter)

A senior rescuer at the site said that 27 of the 58 people aboard -- many of them Chinese tourists -- had been retrieved from the wreckage.

The remaining 31 people are thought to be trapped inside the submerged front section of the plane.
"The focus of our work is to try to use cranes to lift the front part of the wreckage, which is submerged under the water and is where most of the other passengers are feared trapped," the rescue official told reporters at the scene.

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

"All their phones were powered off because they were on board a plane, so we haven't been able to contact them," the daily quoted an unnamed representative of one of the tour agencies as saying.
Xiamen is in Fujian province, which lies across the Taiwan Strait from the island.

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

"It's an emergency," she said. "We're working with different work teams. We're trying to arrange for the relatives to go to Taiwan."

To see the live video feed of the rescue efforts... click here

Rescuers standing on large sections of broken wreckage tried to pull passengers out of the plane with ropes. Those who were rescued -- including two children -- were put in dinghies and taken to the shore.
Some were then loaded on stretchers.

Aviation officials said the plane crashed minutes after taking off Songshan airport, after losing contact with the control tower.

Eight rescue boats and more than 15 ambulances as well as around 100 soldiers were working on the rescue operation, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

The plane wreckage remained in the middle of the river, surrounded by dinghies.

Lin Chih-ming, head of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration, said the ATR 72-600 was less than a year old and was last serviced just over a week ago.

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

In last July's crash, the 48 people were killed when another domestic TransAsia flight crashed onto houses during a storm on the Taiwanese island of Penghu.

The ATR 72-500 turboprop plane 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.

The flight's pilots could not see the runway but had continued to descend anyway, Taiwanese authorities said in December. Two French nationals were among the dead.

 


 

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