A Taiwanese flight with 58 passengers on board turned on its side in midair on Wednesday, clipping an elevated roadway and crashing into a river on the island’s capital of Taipei. At least 23 people were killed in the crash, with reports of up to 20 still missing, BBC reports.
The death toll is expected to rise for the TransAsia Airways flight as rescue crews clear the mostly sunken fuselage in the Keelung River yards from the shore. Teams of rescue officials in rubber rafts huddled around the remains of the wreckage – at least 15 people have been pulled out alive so far.
Local television footage showed that the ATR 72 prop-jet aircraft was flying on its side, with one wing scouring past Taiwan’s National Freeway No. 1 just seconds before it plunged into the river.
Thirty-one passengers were from China, Taiwan’s tourism bureau said.
In the past year, this has been the airline carrier’s second French-Italian-built ATR 72 to crash. The previous accident in July 2014 killed 48 people and injured 15.
Wednesday’s flight had taken off from Taipei Songshan Airport and was heading to the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen islands, just off the coast of the south-eastern Chinese city of Xiamen. According to civil aviation officials, the flight took off at 10: 53 a.m. (local time) and lost contact with controllers two minutes later, Lonely Planet reports.
Wu Jun-hong, a Taipei Fire Department official who is coordinating the rescue effort, said the missing people were still in the fuselage or had been most likely pulled downriver.
“At the moment, things don’t look too optimistic,” Mr Wu told reporters at the hectic scene. “Those in the front of the plane are likely to have lost their lives.”
The last communication between the flight’s pilots to air traffic control was “Mayday, mayday, engine flame out,” according to a recording played on local media. However, the recording was not immediately verified by aviation officials.
A TransAsia Airways media office declined to comment on possible reasons for the accident, BBC reported, deferring to a news conference scheduled for later on Wednesday.