Taiwan authorities search plane wreckage for clues on crash that killed 48, injured 15

Firefighters uncovered ID cards and body fragments as they picked through wreckage Thursday for evidence to identify the victims of a plane crash that killed 48 people on a Taiwanese island.

XIXI, Taiwan — Firefighters uncovered ID cards and body fragments as they picked through wreckage Thursday for evidence to identify the victims of a plane crash that killed 48 people on a Taiwanese island.

Hydraulic cranes, meanwhile, lifted twisted chunks of the aircraft from a narrow alley in a village to help about 100 criminal investigators, police and soldiers sort through the rubble for clues on what caused the ATR-72 to crash in stormy weather late Wednesday.

The plane operated by Taiwan’s TransAsia Airways was carrying 58 passengers when it crashed while trying to land in the scenic Penghu archipelago in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China.

Identifying bodies that had been dug out of the wreckage overnight was the top priority, a disaster response official said. Family members of the dead were flown in to identify their loved ones.

“Today’s biggest challenge was that the street was too narrow and so we had a hard time finding people’s identities,” said Huang Hsih, a disaster official.

TransAsia said Thursday the plane, which flew from the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan, may have crashed because of the stormy weather trailing behind a typhoon. That raises questions about why aviation authorities let flights resume Wednesday afternoon following some 200 cancellations earlier in the day.

The head of Taiwan’s Civil Aviation Administration, Jean Shen, defended the authority’s decision to allow those flights, saying weather conditions had met basic requirements for flying, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

Speaking to reporters at the crash site, Shen said, however, that the weather seemed to have suddenly deteriorated.

Visibility at the time was adequate at 1,600 metres (one mile), aviation authority spokesman Lee Wan-lee told reporters, and two other planes had landed before TransAsia’s flight GE222 crashed.

In the village of Xixi, where the 14-year-old plane went down, disaster crews dug in silence through the dusty, ashen rubble of the aircraft cabin and parts of the eight stone houses destroyed in the crash.

Trucks with hydraulic cranes moved the pieces of wreckage to the airport for further inspection. The plane’s black box was found, damaged on the outside.

Just meters (yards) from the wreckage, about a dozen relatives of victims took turns in groups performing funeral rituals led by a Taoist priest in white and yellow robes.

The tearful relatives held photographs of the victims as the priest rang a bell and waved a white strip of cloth tied to a bamboo pole — a ritual believed to help the souls of the deceased find their way in the netherworld.

The airline, which has been operating for 63 years, apologized for the crash and offered victims’ families $6,600 in compensation and $27,000 for funeral expenses.

All four crew members died, along with the only foreign nationals, two 23-year-old French women doing student internships at National Taiwan University in Taipei.

Scenes of grief filled the local television networks’ broadcasts. The mother of one passenger fell to the ground at the Kaohsiung airport and cried uncontrollably when she learned about the accident. Another covered her face and repeatedly cried, “I have no son.”

Among those who perished in the crash was a family of six, including two girls, who were returning to Penghu, and a family of four, the newspaper United Daily News reported.

“How can this be?” said a friend of the family of four, according to the newspaper. “It’s been just a few days since we saw them and now we’re forever separated by heaven.”

The TransAsia crash was Taiwan’s first deadly civil aviation accident since 2002, when a China Airlines plane went down shortly after takeoff, killing 225.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People board and leave at the Century Park light-rail transit station in Edmonton on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Growing number of attacks against Black Muslim women

‘Racism is a real problem:’ Growing number of attacks against Black Muslim women

Alberta Health Services declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Revera Aspen Ridge on Feb. 1. (Photo by Advocate staff)
Two COVID deaths linked to Revera seniors residence in Red Deer

35 active COVID cases at seniors residence

Red Deer musician Lorry Boschman has written a song about love in the time of COVID-19. Proceeds from his single, Romance during a Pandemic, will be donated to the local United Way. (Contributed photo).
Local musician records a song about love in the time of COVID-19 — for charity

Lorry Boschman will donate some proceeds to the United Way

Preliminary data shows Alberta’s suicide rate declined in 2020 — but some mental health critics say it’s too early to draw any conclusions since more dire pandemic impacts are only now being felt. (metrocreative stock)
Alberta’s suicide rate seems to have declined in 2020

But some experts say it’s too early to credit the pandemic

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre can accommodate up to 20 patients requiring a ventilator, says Alberta Health Services.  File photo by Advocate staff
Opinion: UCP government reneging on Red Deer hospital funding

Another year, another Alberta budget and another blow to central Albertans. Budget… Continue reading

Seattle Storm guards Sue Bird, right, and Jordin Canada pose for photos Wednesday, March 3, 2021, on the roof of the Space Needle in Seattle after they raised a flag with the team's new logo on it. Bird re-signed with the Storm earlier in the week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Sue Bird staying busy with 20th Seattle season on horizon

Sue Bird staying busy with 20th Seattle season on horizon

Lille players celebrate after Jonathan David scored his side's second goal during the French League One soccer match between Lille and Marseille at the Stade Pierre Mauroy stadium in Villeneuve-d'Ascq, France, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
David scores 2 as Lille wins to stay two points clear of PSG

David scores 2 as Lille wins to stay two points clear of PSG

Canada defender Shelina Zadorsky, right, passes the ball in front of Argentina forward Sole Jaimes (9) during the second half of a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Alphonso Davies and Shelina Zadorsky have been named Canada Soccer’s players of the month for February. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Phelan M. Ebenhack
Davies, Zadorsky named Canada Soccer’s players of the month for February

Davies, Zadorsky named Canada Soccer’s players of the month for February

Manchester United's Fred, left, and Crystal Palace's Jordan Ayew challenge for the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Selhurst Park stadium in London, England, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Mike Hewitt/Pool via AP)
Grueling season starting to catch up with Man U, Leicester

Grueling season starting to catch up with Man U, Leicester

Gary Sanchez goes deep, Yankees hit three home runs to beat Blue Jays 4-1

Gary Sanchez goes deep, Yankees hit three home runs to beat Blue Jays 4-1

Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) dunks as Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Detroit, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. The undermanned Toronto Raptors, down five players and six members of their coaching staff due to health and safety protocols, are scheduled to host the Detroit Pistons in their first action since last Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Carlos Osorio
Powell, Lowry do their bit but undermanned Raptors beaten handily by the Pistons

Powell, Lowry do their bit but undermanned Raptors beaten handily by the Pistons

Canada's Ghislaine Landry, left, runs past France players during the Women's Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco, Friday, July 20, 2018. The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, grounded last year by the pandemic, will return for the women in May. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeff Chiu
World Rugby unveils condensed 2021 sevens schedule with Vancouver a question-mark

World Rugby unveils condensed 2021 sevens schedule with Vancouver a question-mark

Most Read