46 feared dead in Taiwan plane crash

46 feared dead in Taiwan plane crash
Rescue workers search for survivors after the crash of the TransAsia Airways flight GE222 on July 23, 2014 in Penghu islands.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - A TransAsia Airways (復興航空) passenger flight crashed near the Magong Airport on Penghu Island yesterday, with the transportation minister confirming 46 missing and feared dead and 12 injured as of press time.

According to the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), TransAsia Airways flight GE-222 departed from Kaohsiung International Airport around 5:43 p.m. yesterday, and the pilot reported that they would be landing around 7 p.m.

A typhoon was sweeping across Taiwan on the day of the accident.

Unable to land smoothly, the pilot attempted a forced landing, later crashing in a small patch of empty land 1 to 2 kilometers away from the airport's landing strip. The site of the crash was near two houses in Penghu's Hsi-his Village (西溪村), but no villagers were injured.

"We lost the signal from them after they reported they would be trying for a second landing," said CAA Director-General Jean Shen (沈啟).

The plane was carrying 54 passengers and four airline crew. Twelve people were sent to the hospital almost immediately after the crash, with one arriving without vital signs. Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) confirmed yesterday that there were 46 "missing" and feared dead and 12 injured, but these were still being revived in the hospital as of press time. The injured had crawled out of the crashed plane on their own, said the minister.

The plane, flight GE-222, is an ATR-72, a twin-engine turboprop short-haul regional airliner, and was in service for 14 years at the time of the crash. It was flown by pilot Lee Yi-liang (李義良) and copilot Jiang Guan-hsing (江冠興), with over 23,000 and 22,000 hours under their belts, respectively. Lee, 60, worked well with Jiang, who was around 38, said the CAA.

The plane was badly charred and in flames after the crash, with villagers who had witnessed the crash reporting that sparks were seen in the air before the plane attempted to land.

The Penghu County Fire Bureau dispatched over 30 fire engines and ambulances to the site of the crash, trying to put out the burning plane while paramedics dragged out passengers, many of whom were already deceased as they were not able to escape in time, said the chief of the Penghu County Fire Bureau.

It was reportedly raining hard in Penghu when the plane crashed, possibly blurring the sight of the pilot and also making it difficult for the paramedics to rescue the passengers.

TransAsia Airways cancelled its last flight from Kaohsiung to Penghu after GE-222 crashed yesterday.

Past TransAsia ATR-72 Crashes Linked to Penghu

According to local media, there is a history of two ATR-72 crashes that were both linked to Penghu.

The first one occurred in 1995, when a passenger plane veered off track after flying back to Songshan International Airport from Penghu and crashed into a mountain near Taoyuan County, leaving four crew dead.

The second accident happened in 2002, when the ATR-72 crashed into the sea just off the shore of Magong after ice built up on the plane.

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