A TransAsia Airways Corp. turboprop plane crashed into Keelung River near Taipei after hitting a taxi, killing at least 12 people. It was the second accident in less than a year for the Taiwanese airline.
Sixteen people were injured and 30 people are missing from Flight 235, Taipei City Government said today. There were 53 people and five crew members on board. GE235 crashed at about 10:45 a.m. local time, Thomas Wang, a spokesman for the Aviation Safety Council said. Two people in the taxi were injured when the plane collided, the government said.
The plane lost contact after takeoff, Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration said. Two tour groups from mainland China with 31 members were aboard the ATR-72 aircraft, a propeller plane made by Toulouse, France-based ATR.
Unconfirmed footage taken from a dashboard-mounted camera of a vehicle showed the plane flying at an angle, swerving close over a bridge, with one wing clipping the taxi and the railing before plunging down into the river.
A TransAsia turboprop plane had crashed in July last year, killing 48 people. That plane went down after the pilots couldn’t find the runway seconds before their aircraft slammed on Taiwan’s outlying Penghu islands, according to the accident report. Ten people survived that crash, which was also an ATR 72 twin-engine turbo-propeller aircraft.
Last year was the deadliest year for air travel since 2005 globally. Malaysia Airlines lost two Boeing Co. 777s -- one thought to have disappeared in the Indian Ocean, and flight MH17 presumed shot down over Ukraine. Then last month, AirAsia Bhd. lost a plane in Indonesia. The global annual toll was 884, according to safety consultant Ascend Worldwide.
“An incident right after the Indonesia accident, doesn’t reflect well on the region as whole and on the industry in this part of the world,” Shukor Yusof, founder of aviation research firm Endau Analystics, said from Singapore. “The skies over Taiwan is going to get crowded with increased traffic from mainland China. This is an urgent issue that needs to be resolved quickly.”
Onlookers watched quietly on both banks of the Keelung River as a dozen rescuers were on top of the partially-submerged fuselage, trying to break though to check for more people. They managed to open at least one rescue hatch.
At least nine ambulances and 10 fire trucks lined the south bank of the river, about 20 meters from the water where flight GE235 from Taipei to Kinmen had crashed after takeoff from the Songsheng domestic airport in downtown Taipei. This part of the river stretches about 80 meters bank to bank, with hundreds of onlookers seen on the north bank.
In the light drizzle against an overcast sky, rescuers were moving about in at least six small inflatable rescue boats. Police divers in wet suits searched underwater, assisted by a hovercraft as a search helicopter hovered above the accident site.
Established in November 1981, ATR is a joint partnership between Airbus Group NV and Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi, a Finmeccanica company, according to ATR’s website.
ATR has sold nearly 1,500 aircraft and has over 180 operators in more than 90 countries. The ATR 72 can seat 70 passengers and every 15 seconds, an ATR turboprop takes off somewhere around the world, according to the website.
Including today’s crash, TransAsia’s ATR 72 planes were involved in four accidents over the last decade that killed 66 people, according to AviationSafetyNetwork, which tracks accident data.