A Trans-Asia Airways plane with 58 passengers and crew on board, on Wednesday plunged into a river shortly after taking off from a downtown Taipei airport, killing at least 23 people and leaving about a dozen missing.
The Airport officials said the twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff from Taipei’s Songshan Airport, en route to Kinmen Island, with 53 passengers and five-crew.
The crash occurred after the plane lurched between buildings, clipped an overpass with its port-side wing and crashed upside down in the shallow river.
Peter Chen, Trans-Asia Airways Chief Executive, has offered a public apology.
“We are on the site, we are still doing our best to rescue people and rescuers were trying to lift the front part of the wreckage with cranes,” he said.
Chen said the flight manifest listed 31 Chinese tourists and 22 Taiwanese passengers.
Chen, a volunteer rescuer said the dramatic pictures taken by a motorist and posted on Twitter showed the plane cartwheeling over the motorway, soon after it took off in apparently clear weather.
“I’ve never seen anything like this it is unprecedented, in a series of disasters to hit Asian carriers in the past 12 months,’’ he said.
Survivors wearing life jackets wading and swimming clear of wreckage, others, including a young child, were taken to shore by rescuers,’’ he added.
Wu Chun-hong, Acting Director of the Taipei City Fire Department, said 16 people had been killed and 14 still unaccounted for. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the government had offered any help necessary following the crash.
The air traffic control said the last communication from one of the aircraft’s pilots was “Mayday Mayday engine flame out.”
Lin Tyh-ming, Head of Taiwan Civil Aviation Authority, said the aircraft last underwent maintenance on January 26th.
He said the pilot had 4,916 hours of flying hours under his belt and the co-pilot had 6,922 hours.
Meanwhile, a statement from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said 31 of those on board were tourists from the southeastern city of Xiamen, which lies close to Taiwan’s Kinmen island.
The crash is the latest in a string of mishaps to hit Asian carriers in the past 12 months.
An Air Asia jet bound for Singapore crashed soon after taking off from the Indonesian city of Surabaya on December 28th 2014, killing all 162 people on board.
Also last year, a Malaysia Airlines jet disappeared and one of its sister planes was downed over Ukraine with a combined loss of 537 lives.
Trans-Asia is Taiwan’s third-largest carrier.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Ashley Pon