TAIPEI - Rescue workers in Taiwan used a crane to lift part of the wreckage of a TransAsia passenger plane that crashed outside of Taipei, killing at least 32 people and leaving 11 others missing in shallow water.
Rescuers in boats surrounded the partially submerged, upside-down plane and pulled at least 15 of the passengers to safety, including a young child.
Lin Tyh-Ming, the head of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration, said Thursday the search for the missing passengers is continuing.
"At present, the head and tail of the plane have been recovered out of the water. Two engines have been found. Part of the plane wings are still under the water. We are unable to pull the plane wreckage out of the water as the water current is very fast today," he said.
Japan's Kyodo news agency quoted an aeronautics official as saying he suspected the ATR-72 turboprop plane lost speed while climbing during takeoff.
Officials say the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorder have been recovered and are undergoing analysis to determine the cause of the crash, which occurred in clear weather.
Dramatic video footage captured the plane’s rapid descent and crash landing into the shallow Keelung River, narrowly missing plowing into several nearby high-rise apartment building. The taxi driver who recorded the crash was mildly injured.
The ATR-72 prop passenger jet was on its way to a domestic airport in the outlying Kinmen islands. According to officials, at least 31 of the passengers were tourists from mainland China.
"Mayday, mayday, engine flameout" were the last words uttered before the crash, according to an air traffic controller recording posted online.
Clean safety record
TransAsia Chief Executive Officer Peter Chen told reporters he did not know why the plane went down.
He said the plane was less than a year old and it had undergone scheduled maintenance on January 26. The 63-year-old airline had a clean safety record before last July but it is now likely to face tougher public scrutiny, along with the European aircraft manufacturer.
Chen said the airline apologizes deeply and that it will do its utmost to help the injured and families of the victims, doing all it can to mobilize people to do work in the crash aftermath.
An official with the Civil Aeronautics Administration said the flight lost contact with air control at central Taipei’s Sungshan airport two minutes after takeoff.
The aviation administration will begin a formal investigation into the crash.
It is the second ATR-72 to crash in Taiwan in as many years. Last July, one of the French-made twin-engine turboprops crashed during poor weather near the airport on the island of Penghu, killing 48 people.