TAIPEI, Taiwan (Christian Examiner) — A TransAsia Airways plane crashed into a river less than 15 minutes after taking off from downtown Taipei Songshang Airport on Wednesday, killing 26 people and leaving 17 missing, officials said. The ordeal was captured by a car's dashboard camera as the ATR 72 propjet slammed into a highway before careening into the Keelung river.
Flight 235, which had 58 people aboard at the time of the crash, clipped a taxi and an overpass with its port-side wing before going down in the shallow water. The plane had been heading to the outlying island of Kinmen when the accident occurred.
Dramatic pictures taken by a motorist and posted on Twitter showed the plane slamming into the motorway, and others captured the fuselage breaking into three pieces on impact.
"I've never seen anything like this," a volunteer rescuer surnamed Chen said of the most recent in a series of disasters to hit Asian carriers in the past 12 months.
Survivors were filmed wearing life jackets wading and swimming clear of wreckage. Others, including a young child, were taken to shore in inflatable boats. Emergency rescue officials crowded around the partially submerged fuselage of flight GE235, lying on its side in the river, trying to help those on board.
Later Wednesday night, the bodies of pilot Liao Chien-tsung, co-pilot Liu Tzu-chung and flight engineer Hung Ping-chung were found among the waterlogged debris. Search teams continue to scour the Keelong River to recover bodies.
The last communication from one of the aircraft's pilots was "Mayday Mayday engine flameout," according to an air traffic control recording on liveatc.net.
The chief executive of TransAsia, Peter Chen, bowed deeply at a televised news conference as he apologized to passengers and crew.
Thirty-one of the passengers were from Xiamen in mainland China.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said his government is offering Taiwan any help necessary following the crash.