TAIPEI, Feb 4 – At least nine people were killed and dozens were unaccounted for after a Taiwanese TransAsia Airways plane with 58 passengers and crew on board crash-landed in a Taipei river, officials and domestic media said. Dramatic pictures taken by a motorist and posted on Twitter showed the plane cartwheeling over a motorway close to the airport soon after the turboprop ATR 72-600 aircraft took off.
Television footage showed passengers wearing life jackets wading and swimming clear of the river. Emergency rescue officials in inflatable boats crowded around the partially submerged fuselage, lying on its side in the river, trying to help those on board. The civilian aeronautic authority said soon after the crash that two people had been killed. Taiwanese television later reported the death toll had risen to nine.
The aeronautics authority reported 16 people had been rescued, meaning as many as 33 people were still missing. Other Taiwanese government authorities said the plane was carrying 58 passengers and crew, including 31 tourists from mainland China.
The weather appeared to be clear when the plane took off. Television pictures also showed some damage to a bridge next to the river, with small pieces of the aircraft scattered along the road. The crash-landing is the latest in a string of mishaps to hit Asian carriers in the past 12 months.
An Indonesia AirAsia jet bound for Singapore crashed soon after taking off from the Indonesian city of Surabaya on Dec. 28, killing all 162 people on board. Also last year, a Malaysia Airlines jet disappeared and one of its sister planes was downed over Ukraine with a combined loss of 539 lives. TransAsia is Taiwan’s third-largest carrier.
One of its ATR 72-500 planes crashed while trying to land at Penghu Island last year, killing 48 of the 58 passengers and crew on board. The plane involved in today’s mishap was among the first of the ATR 72-600s, the latest variant of the turboprop aircraft, that TransAsia received in 2014.
They are among an order of eight placed by TransAsia in 2012. The aircraft have 72 seats each. The planes are mainly used to connect Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, to the island’s smaller cities. The airline also operates Airbus A320 and A330 planes on domestic and international services. ATR is a joint venture between Airbus and Alenia Aermacchi, a subsidiary of Italy’s Finmeccanica.