Shortly after takeoff, TransAsia flight GE235 carrying 58 passengers crashed into the river, killing 26. The plane had just left a Taipei airport in the downtown area when the pilot called out Mayday, indicating the plane’s engines had failed.
The whole incident was caught on a driver’s dash cam, showing the plane turned almost completely on its side while plunging in between buildings. It clipped a taxi and overpass, before landing in shallow water upside down.
The domestic flight on an ATR 72-600 aircraft was flying in clear weather heading toward the island of Kinmen. As one witness said, this is something that people never see and considering all of the recent crashes to hit Asia airplane carriers over the past year, truly a devastating situation.
Emergency rescue crews arrived quickly to help the surviving 15 people on the flight get out of the plane, now on its side in the river. Footage released on international news media outlets showed many of the survivors did have life jackets on as they were either swimming or wading away from the crashed plane while other people, one being a small child, was loaded into an inflatable boat and taken to shore.
The crash was horrific but considering the density of the area, things could have turned out much worse. While dropping from the sky, apartment buildings full of innocent people were missed by just meters. In the released video, one van on the overpass is seen skidding to a stop after the wing of the plane was barely missed.
In a statement from Peter Chen, chief executive with TransAsia, his apologies go out to all of the passengers aboard the flight, as well as the crewmembers. In addition, Li Keqiang, Chinese Premier, said the government would provide assistance in any way needed.
In the last communication from the pilot, he called out “mayday mayday”, stating there was an engine flameout, which in the industry, means there was some type of interruption of fuel to the involved engine, causing it to fail. As a twin engine aircraft, often continued flight is possible with just one engine but why this particular plane powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW127M engines was unable to recover will be a key part of the investigation.
According to Lin Tyh-ming, head of civil aviation authority in Taiwan, the plane had just gone through maintenance weeks ago. He added that both pilots had extensive experience flying. The captain had 4,916 flying hours while the co-pilot was slightly more experienced with 6,922 hours.
The Taiwan Affairs Office released a statement as well, telling reporters that 31 of the passengers on the ill-fated flight were tourists, from Xiamen, a city located near Kinmen island.
Sadly, this is yet another crash in a growing list of disasters affecting Asian carriers over the past year to include one on December 28 in which all 162 passengers were killed, a Malaysia Airlines that crashed in July killing 537 people, and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MASM.KL last March.