TAIWAN– A passenger plane clipped a bridge and plunged into a river in Taiwan on Wednesday, killing at least 23 people, according to the country’s official news agency, CNA.
Rescuers scrambled to pull survivors from the submerged wreck of the ATR-72 twin engine turboprop aircraft, which went down shortly after takeoff from the Taiwanese capital.
Fifty eight people were aboard TransAsia Airways Flight GE235 when it veered out of control as it flew to Kinmen, off the coast of the Chinese province of Xiamen.
The toll: 21 confirmed dead, 17 injured, including two on the ground and 22 missing, according to Taiwan’s official news agency CNA.
Crews later recovered the black boxes belonging to the aircraft, CNA reported. The flight data recorder and voice data recorder were found in the tail of the plane, Ang Xingzhong, the executive director of Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council told the news agency.
Plane clips highway
A dashcam video captured the moment the plane hurtled out of control above the city’s Nanhu Bridge before crashing into the Keelung River, just after 11 a.m. local time (10 p.m. ET).
Taiwan’s official news agency CNA reported that the pilot appeared to try to control the plane as it descended, but the aircraft’s wing grazed the overpass, clipping a passing taxi.
The two people in the taxi were injured but in stable condition after being taken to hospital, CNA said.
Rescuers in lifeboats pulled survivors from the water and the wreckage. Some passengers appeared to be wearing lifejackets as they waited their turn to board rescue boats.
The military said it had 165 personnel and numerous vehicles nearby to assist rescue efforts if required.
TransAsia CEO apologizes
Hours after the crash, TransAsia Airways CEO Chen Xinde extended a “deep apology to the victims and our crew.”
He said 31 of the passengers aboard the flight were Chinese tourists, including three children. Twenty-two were from Taiwan, including one child.
The airline had sent the passenger manifest to authorities, and families were confirming the identities of the deceased, he said.
Airline staff have been dispatched to hospitals to provide assistance to families and the injured, as well as the taxi driver and passenger who were also receiving treatment.
Some were also going to Xiamen to assist two Chinese travel agencies, Chen said.
The 31 Chinese tourists were traveling in two tour groups: the Xiamen Airlines International Travel Service Co. and the Xiamen Tourism Group International Travel Service Co.
Chou Jih-shine, the vice chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation — a quasi-governmental agency which covers cross-Taiwan Strait negotiations — said that the agency had informed its Beijing counterpart. Chou added that the agency had sent personnel to the crash site.
Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said the plane was less than a year old and had last completed a safety check on January 26. The agency did not offer any information on what may have caused the crash.
Last year, an older TransAsia ATR 72, which was attempting to land in the Taiwanese Penghu Islands crashed, resulting in 49 deaths.
CNN’s Ed Payne contributed to this report.
Euan McKirdy and Vivian Kam