Over 1,000 search and rescue personnel sent to assist TransAsia crash

Over 1,000 search and rescue personnel sent to assist TransAsia crash
Rescuers and soldiers remove air plane parts after a TransAsia plane crashed into a river in New Taipei City, February 4, 2015.

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- More than 1,000 personnel were deployed yesterday in search and rescue efforts for TransAsia Flight GE235, which crashed into the Keelung River.

The ATR72-600 carrying 58 passengers and crew crashed soon after takeoff from Taipei Songshan Airport at 10:52 a.m. yesterday.

After around one minute in the air, the plane lost contact with air traffic control and crash-landed into the Keelung River near the Nangang Software Park MRT Station for reasons that are still being investigated.

Authorities have revealed that the flight data recorder, or "black box" of the plane, has already been retrieved.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications' Civil Aeronautics Administration confirmed that there were 51 adult and two child passengers onboard the plane.

The five other individuals include pilot Liao Chien-tsung and co-pilots Liu Tzu-chung and Hung Ping-chung, as well as two cabin crew members.

Rescue Personnel Pour into Crash Site

Following the incident, Taipei and New Taipei City devoted massive resources to search and rescue operations.

In addition to police officers, firefighters and armed services personnel, more than 1,000 rescue workers were deployed.

The Taipei City Fire Department deployed 381 rescue personnel accompanied by 88 fire trucks and 44 rescue boats, while the New Taipei City Fire Department sent out 195 rescue personnel accompanied by 84 fire trucks and 18 rescue boats, with Keelung City providing nine rescue workers, three trucks and three boats as well.

Seven special search and rescue professionals from the Ministry of the Interior's National Fire Agency Special Search and Rescue Team were also at the scene to assist with the search.

During an interview, Taipei City Fire Department acting department head Wu Chun-hung said that witnesses claimed to have seen several passengers thrown out of the plane during the crash.

As such, Wu said rescue boats were deployed to search the river.

As civilians also claimed to see luggage afloat 1 kilometer downstream from the crash site, the Water Resources Agency set up barricades further downstream to aid in the rescue.

Jet-skis were also onsite to aid in locating the missing victims, along with four rescue helicopters from the Ministry of the Interior's National Airborne Service Corps.

The Ministry of National Defence mobilized its squads from both cities, including Army, Navy and Air Force servicemen.

Officers from the military's Special Forces and the Executive Yuan's Coast Guard Administration took turns diving into the river in wetsuits to attempt underwater searches, as the majority of the plane was submerged.

The military at one point deployed a Bailey bridge from the shore toward the main debris of the plane in order to reach survivors, with the assistance of two M3 Armored Amphibious Assault Bridges.

Taipei's Public Works Department also provided two heavy-duty cranes.

However, as the terrain of the riverbank was extremely delicate, the cranes were unable to utilize their intended function.

A second attempt to use the cranes took place later last night after the area was cleared.

The operation was deemed a success, after both cranes lifted and dragged the tail of the place, the largest remaining part of the aircraft, to the shore.

Following his previous engagement earlier yesterday, New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu arrived at the crash site in order to better understand the situation.

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je cleared his entire schedule for yesterday and today to coordinate rescue efforts at the Taipei City Emergency Operations Center.

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