26 dead after Taiwan plane crash
Rescuers used a crane to hoist a TransAsia Airways plane from a river in Taiwan's capital as they searched for 17 people missing after a crash that killed at least 26 others.
Flight GE235 had 58 people on board - most of them from China. It banked sharply on its side shortly after take-off from Taipei, clipped a highway bridge and then careened into the Keelung River.
Rescuers in rubber rafts pulled 15 people from the wreckage during daylight. After dark, they brought in the crane, and the death toll was expected to rise once crews were able to search through previously submerged portions of the fuselage.
Video clips apparently taken from cars were posted online showing the ATR 72 propjet as it pivoted onto its side while heading towards a traffic bridge over the river.
Local media speculation suggested said the pilot may have turned sharply to follow the line of the river to avoid crashing into a high-rise residential area, but Taiwan's aviation authority said it had no evidence of that.
Taiwanese broadcasters repeatedly played a recording of the plane's final contact with the control tower in which the pilot called out "Mayday" three times. The recording offered no direct clues as to why the plane was in distress.
It was the airline's second French-Italian-built ATR 72 to crash in the past year.
The flight had taken off at 11.53am from Taipei's downtown Sungshan Airport en route to the outlying Taiwanese-controlled Kinmen islands. The pilot issued the mayday call shortly after take-off, Taiwanese civil aviation authorities said.
TransAsia director Peter Chen said contact with the plane was lost four minutes after take-off. He said weather conditions were suitable for flying and the cause of the accident was unknown.
"Actually this aircraft in the accident was the newest model. It hadn't been used for even a year," he told a news conference.
Thirty-one passengers were from China, Taiwan's tourism bureau said. Kinmen's airport is a common link between Taipei and China's Fujian province.