48 people killed and 10 injured when plane tried to land in Taiwanese island
TransAsia Airways Flight GE 222 attempted to land twice, state news agency reports
Taiwan's transportation minister says there were no casualties on the ground
Cause of accident is under investigation
At least 48 people were killed when a twin-engine turboprop plane crashed Wednesday while attempting to land in Taiwan’s Penghu Islands, according to Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration.
TransAsia Airways Flight GE 222 was preparing to land at Magong Airport in heavy rain on Wednesday and had asked for its second go-around before the accident occurred, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.
Visibility at the airport during the plane’s attempted landing was about 1,600 meters (1 mile) and considered acceptable for landing, Jean Shen, Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration director told reporters.
Transportation officials arrived Thursday morning to investigate the disaster and assist in relief work. The cause of the crash remains unclear and authorities have identified 14 of the 48 killed, according to CNA.
The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder have been sent to Taipei, the agency reported.
The plane, an ATR 72-500, carried 54 passengers and four crew members.
The domestic flight, which took off from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, had been delayed because of conditions related to a typhoon, the airline said. Typhoon Matmo had struck Taiwan on Wednesday.
“Yesterday was an extremely painful day for Taiwan,” its President Ma Ying-jeou posted on his official Facebook page, adding that the typhoon had injured 17 people.
“After hearing of the tragedy, and watching relatives break down on TV news, I believe many Taiwanese were the same as me, passing a heartbroken and sleepless night.”
Grief in Taiwan
Family members crumpled to the ground, overtaken with grief of losing of loved ones, in footage shown on CNN’s affiliate, ETTV.
TransAsia Airways sent families of the victims on a chartered flight to Penghu Islands, the site of the crash, which is located off the west coast of the main Taiwanese island.
The pilots of Flight GE 222 were identified as Lee Yi-liang, who had 22 years of flight experience, and co-pilot Chiang Kuna-hsing who had two-and-a-half years of experience, according to CNA.
Friends of one of the crew members posted on his Facebook page, “Come back” and “Rest in peace.”
Also aboard the plane was Yen Ken-chuang, an 82-year-old Taiwanese wood architect, according to the Ministry of Culture’s Bureau of Cultural Heritage, CNA reported.
It also reported that a local firefighter, Lee Ming-tsun, 47, was pulled from the wreckage by his colleagues. Lee was a leader of one of the divisions, and was returning from his holiday.
French passengers identified as Jeromine Deramond and Penelope Luternauer died in the plane crash, according to CNA. They were on a one-month exchange program in the field of medicine in Taiwan.
“TransAsia Airways is exhausting all means to assist passengers, victims and families” and working with investigators, an airline statement read.
The airline’s president, Chooi Yee-choong appeared briefly at a news conference and bowed in front of news cameras. He choked up as he expressed his sorrow to passengers’ families and the public.
“I sincerely apologize,” he said.
Footage on scene showed the plane had crashed in a residential area and broken into pieces. Witnesses told CNN affiliate ETTV that they saw homes on fire after the plane crashed around 7 p.m. The fallen plane destroyed or damaged 11 houses, EETV reported.
There were no casualties on the ground, said Taiwan’s Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih. Five residents were injured, but they were discharged from local hospitals.
The ATR 72-500 plane was delivered to Taiwan’s TransAsia Airways from the production line in 2000, according to the aircraft maker.
Xi Jinping, China’s president expressed his condolences saying he was “deeply grieved” by the accident.
CNN’s Zoe Li, Dayu Zhang and Ashley Fantz contributed to this report.