TransAsia Pilots May Have Shutdown Wrong Engine Before Plane Crash

Preliminary findings released Friday suggest the pilots may have shut off fuel to the wrong engine in response to a "flame out." The death toll is at 43, including both pilots.

What We Know So Far

  • TransAsia Airways Flight 235, flying from Taipei Songshan Airport, clipped a bridge and crashed into a river, killing at least 43 people.
  • Part of the crash was captured on video.
  • There were 53 passengers and five crew on the flight.
  • A pilot radioed "mayday, mayday, engine flame out" before the crash.
  • Rescue workers have pulled the fuselage out of the river.
  • Preliminary findings suggest the pilots may have shutdown the wrong engine in responding to an emergency.

View this video on YouTube


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The death toll is now at 43, Taiwan's aviation agency confirmed to BuzzFeed News.

Out of a total of 58 people on the plane, 43 are dead and 15 hospitalized, the Civil Aeronautics Administration said Thursday.

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Pilots of the TransAsia flight that crashed in Taiwan may have shut down the wrong engine in response to an emergency, preliminary findings released Friday suggest.

According to Taiwan's Aviation Safety Council, seconds after the twin-propeller plane took off, a master warning sounded in the cockpit associated with right engine "flame out."

But during the apparent confusion, the pilots shutoff fuel to the left engine a short time later, resulting in a shutdown of both engines, officials reported. With nothing powering the plane, it plummeted, clipping a bridge and plunging into a river near Taipei Songshan Airport.

At least 35 of the 58 people aboard Flight 235 were killed in the crash, including both pilots. Eight people were unaccounted for as of Friday afternoon.

The preliminary findings released Friday were based on cockpit voice and flight data recorders, but officials cautioned that it could take more than a year for the investigation to be completed.

The lead investigator of the crash also emphasized that the preliminary release of the findings was not meant to assign blame or liability.

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The death toll rose to at least 35 people on Friday, Taiwan's aviation agency confirmed.

At least 15 people are hospitalized and eight remain unaccounted for.

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Both engines failed before the crash, officials said.

One engine went idle 37 seconds after takeoff. The pilots likely switched off the other in an effort to restart it, but that didn't happen, according to Taiwan's vice president, Wu Den-yih.

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The pilot of the ill-fated TransAsia plane managed to maneuver around buildings in Taipei, prompting some to hail him as a hero.

Shortly before the plane crashed, it issued a distress call, The Guardian reported, with crew shouting "Mayday! Mayday! Engine flameout!" on a recording. Authorities released a partial recording of the call Thursday.

Despite the flameout, however, as the plane descended over the densely built up city it avoided all buildings and only just slightly clipped a bridge. Hong Kong-based aviation analyst Daniel Tsang called the flying "a very courageous move" on the part of the pilot.

"Based on the flight path, the pilot deviated and tried to avoid obstacles," he said. "The pilot apparently made a conscious effort to avoid further and unnecessary casualties by ditching in the river."

Meanwhile Thursday, the search for victims of the crash continued. The death toll remained at 31, but authorities said their efforts were hampered by cold and murky water.

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The death toll rose to at least 31 people by early Thursday, officials said.

Taiwanese fire officials reported the increased death toll, adding that 15 people had been hospitalized and another 12 were still missing, according to NBC News.

Photos from the scene showed rescuers working into the night and hauling the plane's fuselage out of the water.

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The death toll has risen to 26, Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration confirmed.

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At least 25 people were confirmed dead by Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration.

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Here's another live footage from Taiwan's CTI News

At least 23 people died Wednesday when a TransAsia Airways plane crashed into the Keelung River in Taipei, Taiwan, after hitting an elevated bridge.

Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration said said the twin-engine turboprop regional plane was carrying 58 people at the time — 53 passengers and five crew members.

The aviation agency said Wednesday that 23 of the 58 passengers were confirmed dead in the crash and 15 were hospitalized for injuries, leaving 20 others missing.

The pilot was identified as Liao Jianzong,42, who had nearly 5,000 hours of flight experience, and his co-pilot, Liuzi Zhong, 45, who had almost 7,000 hours. It is not clear if they are among the victims in the crash.

Wu Jun-Hong, a Taipei fire official, told the AP that those people may be stuck in the fuselage.

"At the moment, things don't look too optimistic," Wu said. "Those in the front of the plane are likely to have lost their lives."

The AP also reported that 31 of the passengers on the plane were from mainland China, according to Taiwan's tourist bureau.

The plane was an ATR-72 turboprop plane that had just taken off from Taiwan's Songshan airport. The Kinmen Islands, off the coast of Xiamen, southeast China, was the destination, the BBC said.

Flight controllers lost contact with the aircraft at 10:55 a.m. local time (9.55 p.m. Wednesday ET).

The final communication from the pilots to air traffic control was "mayday, mayday, engine flame out", according to the BBC, citing a recording played on local media.

TransAsia's director, Peter Chen, said that contact had been lost with the plane four minutes after takeoff. He added that weather conditions were considered suitable for flying, and the cause of the accident was not yet known, the AP reported.

Speaking at a news conference, Chen said, "Actually this aircraft in the accident was the newest model. It hadn't been used for even a year."

Photos posted by Twitter user @Missxoxo168 appeared to show the plane as it careened over, and clipped, a bridge:

The moment was also captured on video:

View this video on YouTube

A taxi that was driving on the bridge was hit by the plane's wing and suffered extensive damage.

TVBS: Taxi cab was clipped by #GE235 as it descended into river in Taipei. #Taiwan #TransAsia

Local television captured video of rescuers pulling passengers out of the water on Wednesday:

View this video on YouTube

TransAsia is still recovering from a deadly crash in 2014, when another one of its ATR aircraft slammed into buildings during approach in bad weather.

There were 54 passengers and four crew members on the flight, but only 10 survived.

The cause of the crash — which occurred July 23, 2014, near Magong Airport, Penghu Island, Taiwan — remains under investigation.

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