TAIPEI, Taiwan, 4 Feb. 2015. A TransAsia Airways ATR 72-600 twin-engine turboprop short-haul regional airliner carrying 58 people--53 passengers and five crewmembers--has crashed into a river in Taiwan, killing at least 25 people.
The commercial aircraft fell from the sky shortly after taking off from Sungshan Airport in downtown Taipei. An eyewitness driving on an elevated traffic bridge captured the plummeting commercial passenger jet on film with an in-vehicle dashboard camera. Captured footage shows the airplane banking sharply, making contact with a taxi traveling on the bridge, and clipping the side of the bridge before crashing into the Keelung River.
Emergency response personnel rushed to the scene, where they found the turboprop jutting out of the shallow river with one wing missing. They cut the plane open to reach passengers trapped in the front of the fuselage.
"At the moment, things don't look too optimistic," according to Wu Jun-Hong of the fire department in Taipei. "Those in the front of the plane are likely to have lost their lives."
The broken plane’s fuselage lies half-submerged in the river, from which 15 survivors have emerged. Search and rescue efforts are ongoing. Fire department officials requested the use of heavy cranes to pull the plane body from the water.
The ATR-72 turbo-prop 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.
"Mayday, mayday, engine flame out” was the final communication from the TransAsia Airline pilots to air traffic control (ATC) professionals; local media played the taped conversation, yet to be officially verified. Officials revealed that flight controllers lost contact with the plane at 10:55 local time (02:55 GMT).
Another TransAsia ATR-72 commercial airliner crashed seven months ago; 48 people were killed and another 15 injured in the July 2014 accident.
TransAsia CEO Chen Xinde in a news conference revealed that the airline’s aircraft have been under scrutiny since the July 2014 crash, saying: "Our planes and our flight safety system are following strict regulations, so we also want to know what caused the new plane model to crash, but I don't want to speculate.”
Officials at Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration are assessing whether to ground other ATR 72-600 aircraft in Taiwan, according to Director General Lin Zhiming.