A TransAsia Airways (復興航空) regional flight departing from Taipei crashed into the Keelung River minutes after it took off on Wednesday morning, killing 31, including the co-pilots.
The accident also caused 15 injured, and at least 12 passengers are still missing. The plane was carrying 53 passengers and five cabin crew as it departed from Taipei’s Songshan Airport for Kinmen, an island off the coast of China.
According to the Wall Street Journal, authority said they lost contact with the pilots four minutes after the plane took off from the airport at 10:53 AM Wednesday. Dramatic footage captured by drivers’ dashboard camera show the double propeller plane hitting an elevated highway before free wheeling into the river. The footage went viral online within hours and generated shock across social media.
The accident is TransAsia’s second deadly crash involving the same ATR-72 aircraft in the last seven months. In July last year, TransAsia’s Flight 222 bound for Penghu, crashed just a few minutes before landing amid a passing typhoon, resulting in 49 deaths. However, Taipei’s weather was reportedly favorable for flights this morning when the accident happened. No specific details regarding visibility or wind speed has been provided.
The accident also marks the fourth ATR-72 accident involving personnel casualties in TransAsia’s history. According to the South China Morning Post, the crashed plane is ATR72-600, the newest version of ATR-72 plane. TransAsia bought the plane in April last year, and they found deficiency in one of the engines during initial delivery. However, a replacement was immediately made. The plane was reportedly inspected shortly before take off.
As first responders and crew continue search and rescue efforts, the public had reopened debate over whether Songshan Airport, located in the center of Taipei, should be relocated or shut down. Proponents of the airport cite its convenient location close to financial centers in the city, but opponents point to flight paths overlapping dangerously with densely populated areas.
Taiwan’s Aeronautics Administration confirmed that the plane sent out rescuing messages to the control tower two minutes after takeoff. However, media report indicated that both the TransAsia authority and Songshan Airport claimed to have not received any rescue message.
The black box has been found but both government and TransAsia authorities still have not officially confirmed the actual cause of the accident.