Wed, Jan 15, 2020 - Page 1 News List

Tsai, dignitaries pay respects to crash victims

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter, with CNA

President Tsai Ing-wen, right, yesterday presents a letter of commendation to the widow of late chief of the general staff general Shen Yi-ming at a memorial service for Shen and seven other officers at Songshan Air Force Base in Taipei.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday paid her respects to the victims of the Jan. 2 helicopter crash that killed eight military officers, including chief of the general staff general Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴).

At a ceremony at Songshan Air Force Base in Taipei, Tsai announced posthumous promotions for the eight officers, whose coffins were covered with the national flag.

“Thank you for your sacrifice, mission accomplished. The country will miss you and remember your contributions,” Tsai said.

She also announced that the government had approved three benefit packages for military personnel that Shen had pushed for: additional pay for paratroopers, higher bonuses for air force pilots and professional allowances for sergeants.

Tsai urged those in uniform to remember Shen’s patriotism and dedication to the job.

Shen, 62, was the highest-ranking military leader in Taiwan to die while conducting official duties since 1949.

After the service, four Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets and three UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters flew over the base in a “missing person formation” — an aerial salute performed in memory of a fallen pilot or well-known military service member — accompanied by a 19-gun salute from the army.

The remains of Shen and the other officers are to be buried in Wuzhi Mountain Military Cemetery in New Taipei City’s Sijhih District (汐止) after their bodies are cremated.

National flags on government buildings nationwide, including schools, flew at half-mast yesterday.

The service was attended by a delegation led by American Institute in Taiwan Director Brent Christensen.

Heads of missions and military attaches from Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, and heads of representative offices in Taiwan from countries such as France, Japan, Singapore and South Korea were also present.

US Brigadier General Matthew Isler, director of regional affairs for the deputy under secretary of the US Air Force, joined the ceremony. His name was announced by the master of the ceremonies.

The delegation led by Christensen included members of the US armed services, who attended on behalf of the Americans fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work with Shen and the other officers, AIT spokeswoman Amanda Mansour said when asked for comment.

The US selected a delegation appropriate to the unique and tragic nature of the crash, and the resulting loss of life, she added, without providing names.

Nicaraguan Ambassador to Taiwan William Tapia led Paraguayan, Guatemalan and Honduran ambassadors, as well as military officers, to pay their respects at the ceremony.

The UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter went down in the mountains of Wulai District (烏來) in New Taipei City, killing eight of the 13 people on board.

Two data recorders were on Wednesday last week sent to Sikorsky — the US manufacturer of the helicopter — to determine the cause of the accident. Sikorsky’s findings are expected to be known in about four weeks.

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