Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Taiwan: ATR-72 Crashes Late on Wedneaday (July 23), 47 Killed, 11 Injured

According to The Associated Press, a TransAsia Airways ATR-72 carrying 58 passengers and crew crashed late on Wednesday (July 23) killing 47 souls and destroying houses and vehicles on the ground.

The ATR-72 was carrying 58 passengers and crew when it crashed on Penghu in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China, authorities said. The plane was arriving from the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

Two passengers on board were French citizens and the rest Taiwanese, Transport Minister Yeh Kuang-shih told reporters. The twin-engine turboprop crashed while making a second landing attempt, Yeh said.

The crash of flight GE222 was Taiwan's first fatal air accident in 12 years and came after Typhoon Matmo passed across the island, causing heavy rains that continued into Wednesday night. Some 200 airline flights had been canceled earlier in the day due to rain and strong winds.

Additionally, eleven others were injured. 

COMMENT: One detail that the media did not provide was whether the ATR-72 had sufficient fuel to fly to a safer airport with better infrastructure and rescue equipment.

The ATR-72 came down in the village of Xixi outside the airport. Television stations showed rescue workers pulling bodies from wreckage. Photos in local media showed firefighters using flashlights to look through the wreckage, and buildings damaged by debris.

Penghu, a scenic chain of 64 islets, is a popular tourist site about 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of the Taiwanese capital, Taipei.

The flight left Kaohsiung at 1653 hours for Magong on Penghu, according to the head of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration, Jean Shen. The plane lost contact with the tower at 1906 hours after saying it would make a second landing attempt.

Visibility as the plane approached was 1,600 meters (one mile), which met standards for landing, and two flights had landed before GE222, one at 1734 and the other at 1857 hours. Shen said the plane was only 14-years-old.

The Central News Agency, citing the county fire department, said it appeared heavy rain reduced visibility and the pilot was forced to pull up and make the second landing attempt.

In Taipei, TransAsia Airways' general manager, Hsu Yi-Tsung, bowed deeply before reporters and tearfully apologized for the accident, the news agency said.

Hsu said the carrier would take relatives of passengers to Magong on Thursday morning (July 24) and would spare no effort in the rescue and in handling the aftermath, the report said.

Taiwan's last major aviation disaster was near Penghu. In 2002, a China Airlines Boeing 747 broke apart in midair and crashed into the Taiwan Strait, killing all 225 people aboard.

In October 2013, a Lao Airlines ATR-72 crashed during a heavy storm as it approached Pakse Airport in southern Laos, killing all 49 people on board.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.