Wednesday 4 February 2015

TransAsia Aircrash Death Toll Expected to Rise

TransAsia Airways Flight GE235 with 53 passengers and 5 crew on board crashed this morning shortly after taking off from Taipei Airport killing at least 32 people with 11 still missing. The death toll is expected to rise overnight as rescue crews search a Taipei river for bodies washed away in currents or still trapped in the wreckage.

Fifteen people survived the crash after the aircraft — an ATR 72-600 twin turboprop — flew low between buildings, before clipping a taxi and an overpass with the tip of its left wing and crashed upside down in the shallow water. The crash was recorded by a passing motorist on a dashcam. Two people were injured on the ground, both believed to be in the taxi. The domestic Taiwan flight was headed for the island of Kinmen. It is the second crash TransAsia has experienced in the past year. 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.

Television footage showed survivors wearing life jackets wading clear of wreckage. Others, including a young child, were taken to shore in inflatable boats. Emergency rescue officials crowded around the partially submerged fuselage of flight GE235, lying on its side in the river, trying to help those on board.

The aircraft somehow managed to miss apartment buildings by meters, though it is still unclear if the pilot was aiming to crash-land in the river. The pilot had told Taipei ATC that he had experienced an engine flameout and declared a 'Mayday, Mayday' almost immediately after take off. The doomed flight lasted less than 4 minutes and never gained enough altitude and power for the pilot to recover control.

Twin-engined aircraft are usually able to keep flying even when one engine failure and the ATR 72-600 was powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW127M turboprop engines. The head of Taiwan's civil aviation authority, Lin Tyh-ming, said the aircraft last was less than a year old and underwent maintenance on January 26th. The pilot had 4,916 flying hours and the co-pilot had 6,922 hours.

France, where the aircraft was designed and built, is sending investigators to help with Taiwan's accident probe. Rescue and recovery crews have already moved much of the aircraft wreckage to the bank of the river using heavy-lifting cranes.

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