Taiwan plane crash: death toll rises to 31, with 12 still missing

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused a spectacular plane crash off Taiwan as the death toll passes 30.

At least 31 people died, 15 survived and 12 were still missing.

The TransAsia plane — a turboprop ATR 72-600 — carrying 53 passengers and five crew, turned sideways as it lurched between buildings, clipped a taxi and an overpass with its wing and crashed upside down in shallow water in the Keelung River on Wednesday morning (local time).

Rescuers said cold weather was hampering the recovery and they were not optimistic of finding more survivors.

Taipei plane crash salvage


The plane missed apartment buildings by metres as it dropped. It was unclear if that was luck or whether the pilot was aiming for the river.

Charles Lee, director of the Air Traffic Services Division of the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), told the Kyodo news agency he suspected the plane lost speed while climbing during take-off.

The plane’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder was recovered on Wednesday afternoon and sent for analysis.

Officials said it would take at least three to five days if the “black box” was in good shape.

The last communication from one of the aircraft’s pilots was “mayday, mayday engine flameout”, according to an air traffic control recording on liveatc.net.

A flameout occurs when the fuel supply to the engine is interrupted or when there is faulty combustion, resulting in an engine failure.

Late Wednesday, the CAA ordered all 22 ATR72s flying in Taiwan grounded for safety examinations.

Timelapse images of Taiwan plane crash

Twin-engined aircraft, however, are usually able to keep flying even when one engine fails.

Taiwan’s civil aviation authority said the pilot had 4,916 hours of flying hours under his belt and the co-pilot had 6,922 hours.

TransAsia Airways chief executive Peter Chen bowed deeply at a televised news conference as he apologised to passengers and crew.

“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,” Mr Chen said.

He said the plane that crashed was practically “brand new” and among the most advanced twin-engine short-haul aircraft used by many airlines around the world.

However, one of the engines had recently been replaced, he added.

Soon after the crash, television footage showed passengers in life jackets wading and swimming clear of the river with rescuers standing on large sections of broken wreckage trying to pull others out of the plane with ropes.

As well as 27 Taiwanese aboard there were 31 mainland Chinese tourists on the flight, Taiwan’s tourism bureau said.

China’s Xiamen Daily newspaper said on a verified social media account the Chinese tourists were part of two tour groups from the eastern Chinese city of Xiamen.

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

An employee of one of the tour agencies, surnamed Wen, said it had 15 clients, including three children younger than 10, and a tour leader on board.

TransAsia is Taiwan’s third-largest carrier. One of its ATR 72-500 planes crashed while trying to land at Penghu Island last July, killing 48 of the 58 passengers and crew on board.

Taiwan has had a poor aviation safety record in recent years, including the disintegration of a China Airlines 747 on a flight from Taipei to Hong Kong in 2002, killing 225 people.

In 2000, a Singapore Airlines jetliner taking off for Los Angeles during a storm hit construction equipment on the runway, killing dozens.