The TransAsia plane crash that went down without warning into a Taiwanese river Wednesday killed a confirmed 31 of its 58 passengers, including the pilot and co-pilot, reports local Taiwanese news agency CNA, via CNN. The crash injured another 15, while search and rescue teams continue to look for the remaining 12 still-unaccounted-for passengers.
CNA news officials confirmed Wednesday afternoon that TransAsia Airways Flight GE235 took off from Taipei, veered out of control, and crashed into the Keelung River shortly after 11 a.m. local time.
The plane, only a year old according to aviation consultancy Ascend, was en route to Kinmen, China, when it flew out of control and went into the river. CNA told CNN that as the plane descended, it appeared the pilot tried, but failed, to control the plane. This caused it to clip the bridge and a taxi that couldn’t get out of the way fast enough, crushing it. The taxi driver, Mr. Zohu, walked away shaken but unharmed.
According to the Daily Mail, Flight GE235 saw the left engine lose power right after takeoff, which is a critically vulnerable point during any flight.
DailyMail reports the following.
“The last words from the cockpit were ‘Mayday, Mayday engine flameout.'”
These were confirmed by the recording of the mayday, which is archived by LiveATC. Although the engine failure, known as a “flameout,” meant the cessation of one jet engine presumably from “some kind of fuel starvation,” that it happened while still ascending was problematic. The full complement of staff and passengers turned the problem into “every pilot’s worst scenario,” and the pilot simply could not recover.
DailyMail reports the following.
“But just after takeoff the airplane is at its most vulnerable to asymmetrical power—’torque effect’ from the working engine rotates the airplane in the opposite direction to the rotation of the propellers—in this case the right engine whips the ATR into a steep bank to the left in which the wings lose all their lift.”
If the plane had made it to cruising altitude, it could have had more time to try to use the remaining engine to direct the plane down for an emergency landing.
This TransAsia plane crash is just one of a string of flights to crash in Asia in the last year — the second plane crash for TransAsia in six months and the seventh in two decades, according to CBC News. Airways Flight 222 crashed in July, 2014, when the pilot made a second attempt at landing the plane, which was another ATR 72. That crash killed 54. AirAsia Flight QZ8501 crashed December 28, 2014, during its flight from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore. That crash killed 168.
Before those were the two Malaysian Airlines tragedies, one of which included Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared March 8, 2014. Russian separatists allegedly shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers, in July, 2014.
Survivors from today’s TransAsia crash, Lin Mingwei and his wife, Juang Yuying, whose two year old son Lin Riyao swallowed water and is in critical condition at a local hospital, spoke with the Mirror to say that they heard no explosion. Passengers had absolutely no warning that anything was wrong.
CNA noted that crews had already recovered the plane’s black boxes containing the voice and data recorders, which will help officials piece together what happened.
The military offered 165 personnel and vehicles on standby to assist the rescue efforts, and the Mirror reports that as of 6 a.m. local time, salvage operations continued to pull the fuselage from the water. Chen Xinde, CEO of TransAsia, apologized to victims and crew after the TransAsia crash, and noted that more than half were Chinese tourists, while 22 were Taiwanese.
[Photos via Twitter]