Plane crash on Penghu kills dozens

‘CHAOTIC’::The crew of the TransAsia Airways plane had requested a ‘go-around’ as it tried to land at the Magong Airport before the tower lost contact with it

By Shelley Shan and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter and staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Jul 24, 2014 - Page 1

A TransAsia Airways (復興航空) plane crashed on Penghu yesterday, killing at least 47 people, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said last night.

The flight from Greater Kaohsiung crashed near the Magong Airport’s runway with 54 passengers and four crew on board, the agency said.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said that 47 people were confirmed dead and 11 injured.

According to the CAA, the 70-seat turboprop ATR72 model plane carried 54 passengers and four crew.

TransAsia Flight GE222 had been scheduled to depart Greater Kaohsiung at 4pm yesterday. However, because of Typhoon Matmo it was delayed, not departing until 5:43pm.

CAA Director General Jean Shen (沈啟) said air traffic control personnel received the request from the flight for a go-around at the Magong Airport at 7:06pm, but they lost track of the flight afterward.

“It’s chaotic on the scene,” Reuters quoted Shen as saying.

The plane made a forced landing in Sisi Village (西溪), just outside the airport.

Several buildings on the ground were set on fire by the crash, but no one on the ground was injured, local officials said.

"A few empty apartment buildings adjacent to the runway caught fire, but no one was inside at the time and the fire was extinguished," said Hsi Wen-guang, a spokesman for the Penghu County Government Fire Bureau.

About 100 firefighters were sent to the scene, besides 152 military personnel and 255 police, he added.

CAA information said the pilot, Lee Yi-liang (李義良), 60, has 15 years of experience in flying civilian aircraft.

The co-pilot was identified as 39-year-old Chiang Kuan-hsing (江冠興).

Witnesses have said that there was heavy rain at the time. However, the CAA said that the visual range was 800 feet (243.8m), which was adequate for landing.

The agency said that it will dispatch officials to Penghu today to help with the investigation into the cause of the crash, but the investigation will be led by the Aviation Safety Council.

Penghu County Fire Department Director-General Hong Yung-peng (洪永澎) said the airplane tried to land at the airport, but had pulled up to make another try because the heavy rain was hampering the pilot’s vision.

Executive Yuan spokesman Sun Lih-chuyn (孫立群) said Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) had ordered the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to report on the situation as soon as possible.

Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chua and Reuters

This story has been updated since it was first published.