A driver captures the dramatic final moments of TransAsia Flight GE235 with 58 passengers and crew on a dashboard camera as it crashes into Taipei river.
At least 26 people have died in Asia’s latest air disaster after a TransAsia passenger plane carrying 58 people plunged into a river shortly after takeoff in Taiwan.
TransAsia Flight GE235, an ATR 72-600 turboprop, took off from Taipei, the capital, at around 10.53am on its way to the island of Kinmen but its flight lasted less than three minutes.
Initial reports suggest the aircraft hit a section of motorway shortly after takeoff and then plummeted into Keelung River, around 3 miles from the airport.
There were 53 passengers, including a number of children, and five crew on the plane. By Wednesday night, local officials had confirmed the death of 26 people.
As darkness fell, nearly 200 rescue workers, including teams of specially trained divers, continued the hunt for survivors and victims. Two large cranes were brought to the crash site in the hope of hoisting the fuselage from the murky river.
However, divers said they their work was being hampered by treacherous conditions, including sharp pieces of metal jutting out from the submerged wreckage.
“Nobody knows about the conditions inside [the fuselage] because the water visibility is too low. We can’t see,” Chen Chia Hao, a 26-year-old rescue diver who had been attempting to enter the wreckage, told the Telegraph.
“To be honest it is very difficult to dive because it is quite dangerous.”
The causes of the disaster were not immediately clear but FlightRadar24.com, a specialist website, said the plane had attempted to turn back before its crash and had been in the air for less than three minutes.
Desmond Ross, an aviation security expert, said the plane appeared to have suffered "a loss of power at a critical point, perhaps just after take-off, and the aircraft became difficult to control”.
"The video images suggest to me that [the pilot] was in a stall situation with little flight control and it literally fell into the river. Whether that was pure luck or he had some control is a big question at this point,” he added.
In a final message before the plane went down one of the pilots reportedly said: “Mayday! Mayday! Engine flame-out!’”
A “flame-out” meant the plane’s engine had “failed and is not providing any power,” according to Mr Ross, the aviation expert.
A witness, named only as Mr Wu, told local television he had watched in horror from his 25th floor office as the plane came down.
“The whole thing was over in 5 to 10 seconds,” he told Taiwan’s CTITV. “I saw the flight hit the viaduct and fall into the river. I saw a big splash.”
A passing driver captured the flight’s final moments on dashboard camera. The images appeared to show Flight GE235 pitching violently to its left before crashing into the Keelung River, sending a plume of debris into the air.
Another video broadcast on Taiwanese television showed the plane striking a bridge before crashing while a photograph posted on social media showed the crumpled bonnet of a Volkswagen taxi that the plane clipped as it came down.
“I told him that… he should be at home preparing for the wedding. He responded that it was work and that his agency didn’t have anyone else who could go,” Shi Libo, a 28-year-old school friend, told The Telegraph.
Moments before the plane took off, Mr Wang sent friends a message on the WeChat messaging service. “Today is the beginning of Spring," it said. "Let's not fight, let's not be angry. Let's just enjoy this day, peacefully and happily."
Throughout the day Taiwanese television channels carried live images of the rescue effort, as workers in yellow and orange life vests attempted to extract victims from the plane's semi-submerged fuselage. Red dinghies were used to ferry victims to shore.
Weng Kaikai, who knew one Chinese passenger, took to Facebook to celebrate after learning his friend had survived from a television report. “My friend is alive,” he wrote, according to the Apple Daily newspaper. “I almost burst into tears."
Wednesday’s crash is TransAsia’s second in a year. Last July, 48 people died and 10 were injured when TransAsia Flight GE222 crashed during a rainstorm after its pilots were unable to locate the runway.
That incident was one of four major disasters to strike Asian carriers in 2014.
Malaysia Airlines lost two planes, MH370 and MH17, carrying a total of 537 people.
In December an AirAsia plane carrying 162 people crashed into the Java Sea while flying from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore. So far the bodies of only 90 of those people have been found.
At just after 8pm on Wednesday, rescue workers used cranes to lift large parts of the wreckage from the water. The plane appeared to have flipped upside down. The cockpit and front section was almost completely destroyed.
Additional reporting Ailin Tang
This article was written by Grace Tsoi in Taipei and Tom Phillips in Beijing from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.