Sat, Jul 26, 2014 - Page 3 News List

‘Fire everywhere’: Penghu disaster eyewitness says

Staff writer, with CNA

Survivors and eyewitnesses of the TransAsia Airways crash that killed 48 people said they saw massive flames and smelled fuel coming from the plane as it smashed into homes in Penghu County after a botched landing attempt on Wednesday.

“There was fire everywhere,” hospital staff in at Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital reported 27-year-old Tsai Pei-ju (蔡佩儒) as saying.

Tsai — who is being treated at the hospital — is one of just 10 people who survived the crash. His girlfriend and a young girl they rescued also survived.

The staff quoted Tsai as saying he had protected his head with a life jacket before unbuckling his seatbelt to escape the wreckage.

He said he wanted to help other passengers who were trapped near him, “but couldn’t pull them out,” the staff said.

Tsai declined to talk directly to the media because he is in active service for the navy.

Tsai and his girlfriend, Yan Wan-ju (顏婉茹), who is also in the navy, managed to rescue a 10-year-old girl before they exited the flaming aircraft, the hospital said.

Tsai sustained injuries to his chest and other parts of his body, while Yen injured her head and neck, their doctor said.

The 10-year-old girl they rescued had injuries to her head and legs and is currently hospitalized in Taipei, the hospital said.

GE222 was carrying 54 passengers and four crew members from Kaohsiung to Penghu when it crashed at 7:06pm on Wednesday on approach to Magong airport.

Penghu residents who witnessed the crash and its aftermath said they saw collapsed buildings and plane debris scattered at the crash site and smelled a strong gasoline odor.

After what they described as an earthquake-like shake, residents said they heard people screaming for help.

Three or four passengers crawled out from the wreckage before there was another explosion, witnesses said.

Residents said they wanted to help those still trapped in the plan,e but could not get near the aircraft because of the billowing flames.

Meanwhile, copilot Chiang Kuan-hsing’s (江冠興) sister asked why the airplane was still allowed to fly amid inclement weather caused by Typhoon Matmo.

“Who is going to give me my brother back?” she said, not giving her name.

Pilot Lee Yi-liang’s (李義良) son, who also wished to remain anonymous, said his father was an experienced pilot with good flying skills.

“He was just two years away from retirement,” the son said.

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