Death toll from Taiwan plane crash rises to 31-UPDATED

Dramatic footage shows stricken plane's wing clipping motorway. Dead include captain, two first officers and 16 residents of mainland China.

Death toll from Taiwan plane crash rises to 31-UPDATED

World Bulletin / News Desk

Scores of divers and rescue boats continued searching a river in Tawian’s capital Taipei on Thursday as the death toll from a TransAsia plane crash rose to 31.

The official figures released by Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration stood at 31 as of 10.25 a.m. (0225GMT), with the captain of Flight GE235 and his two first officers included among the victims, according to Taiwan's Central News Agency.

The domestic flight between Taipei’s Songshan airport and the Kinmen islands, off China’s southeast coast, was carrying 53 passengers and five crew members when it crashed a few minutes after taking off at 10.52 a.m. Wednesday.

The agency showed footage, taken from a Taiwanese Twitter user, of the plane clipping an elevated section of road before plunging into the Keelung river. The aircraft's wing appeared to strike the roof of a taxi.

Among those injured in the incident, there were 15 passengers and the driver and passenger of the taxi.

The aviation authority said that a record of communications between the cockpit of the ill-fated ATR-72 plane and the control tower indicated the pilot had called out "mayday" three times prior to the crash.

The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post cited an aviation official as confirming the authenticity of the recording in which a pilot said “mayday, mayday, engine flameout.”

Using the international emergency call, the pilot referred to a situation where flames in the engine’s combustion chamber are extinguished, causing it to shut down.

At least 16 of the dead were residents of mainland China, the country’s state news agency reported, citing the local disaster response authority.

All the missing passengers are also tourists from the mainland, according to Xinhua, and Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered that accurate information be obtained and the relatives of the passengers cared for.

China’s National Tourism Administration dispatched a team to Taiwan to help in search efforts and arrangements for the family members of passengers relatives to travel to the island.

The two black boxes have been recovered, with several sections of the plane -- including its cockpit – being retrieved from the river.

Poor visibility due to murky water conditions has hampered rescue efforts.

Following the accident, the Civil Aeronautics Authority has ordered that safety checks be carried out on 22 ATR-72 planes before their clearance for flight, focusing on their engines, fuel control systems, propellor systems, spark plugs and ignition connectors.

Meanwhile, Songshan airport announced on its website Thursday morning that it had canceled eight local flights -- all involving ATR-72 aircraft.

"MAYDAY MAYDAY"

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

The plane was powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW127M engines. Pratt & Whitney is part of United Technologies.

The head of Taiwan's civil aviation authority, Lin Tyh-ming, said the aircraft last underwent maintenance on Jan. 26. The pilot had 4,916 hours of flying hours under his belt and the co-pilot had 6,922 hours, he said.

Taipei's downtown Songshan airport, the smaller of the city's two airports, provides mostly domestic flights but also connections to Japan, China and South Korea.

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 AirAsia jet bound for Singapore crashed soon after taking off from the Indonesian city of Surabaya on Dec. 28, 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.

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.

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

The plane involved in Wednesday's mishap was among the first of the ATR 72-600s, the latest variant of the turboprop aircraft, that TransAsia received in 2014 as part of an order of eight aircraft two years earlier.

The 72-seat aircraft are mainly used to connect the capital, Taipei, with smaller cities and islands.

ATR is a joint venture between Airbus and Alenia Aermacchi, a subsidiary of Italy's Finmeccanica.

 

Last Mod: 05 Şubat 2015, 10:37
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