By Yu-Tzu Chiu, dpa (TNS)
TAIPEI, Taiwan — A Taiwanese passenger plane hurtled into a river after hitting a bridge shortly after taking off from a Taipei airport on Wednesday, killing at least 31 people.
TransAsia Airways flight 235 with 53 passengers and five crew members on board was en route from Songshan Airport to Kinmen Island when it crashed after takeoff at 10:52 a.m. (0252 GMT), according to the Civil Aeronautics Administration.
The twin-engine ATR 72 turboprop avoided the tall buildings of Taipei’s Nangang district, but its wing hit a bridge and it plunged into the river, a dramatic video posted online from a car’s dashcam showed.
By late Wednesday, 40 people on the flight had been accounted for, the aviation authority said. Fifteen people injured were hospitalized, while 12 people remained missing.
The driver of a taxi, which was struck by the plane’s wing, and a passenger inside were also hospitalized.
Rescuers hoisted the wreckage from the Keelung River with cranes.
TransAsia Airways chief executive officer Peter Chen apologized to the public. He said there were 31 Chinese tourists and 22 Taiwanese passengers on board.
Taiwan’s minister for the Mainland Affairs Council, a government body that deals with the Beijing authorities, said it would offer assistance to the family members of the affected Chinese tourists.
According to the state-run Central News Agency, China’s equivalent Taiwan Affairs Office will send a team to the island as soon as possible.
The cause of the crash was still unknown. Local media reported that analysts suspected that one of the engines lost power; the plane failed to gain altitude after takeoff.
TransAsia Airways said the plane was the latest ATR-72-600 type craft and the engines were new. Its most recent safety check was conducted Jan. 26.
Aviation authority director Lin Chih-ming said the plane was the same type as TransAsia Airways flight GE222 that crashed in Penghu in July 2014, killing 48 of the 59 people on board.
Photo: Rescuers carry out rescue operation after a plane plunged into a river in Taipei, southeast China’s Taiwan, Feb. 4, 2015. A Taiwan TransAsia Airways plane crashed into a Taipei river on Wednesday morning, killing at least 21 people. Flight ATR-72, which was headed for Kinmen from Taipei, had 58 people on board, including 31 passengers from the Chinese mainland. It crash landed in the Keelung River after it clipped an elevated motorway with its wing. (Jin Liwang/Xinhua/ZUMA Press/TNS)
This story has been updated