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Thursday, July 24, 2014, 17:04

Crash: Airline blames bad weather

By Agencies
Crash: Airline blames bad weather

A relative of a passenger on board the crashed TransAsia Airways plane cries in Kaohsiung International Airport, southern Taiwan, July 23, 2014. A TransAsia Airways turboprop ATR-72 plane crashed on its second attempt at landing during a thunderstorm in Penghu county on Wednesday, killing 47 people and setting buildings on fire, officials said. (Photo / Agencies)

TAIPEI - Stormy weather on the trailing edge of Typhoon Matmo was the likely cause of a plane crash on a Taiwanese island that killed 48 people and injured 10 others, the airline said Thursday as Taiwanese authorities claimed the contrary.

The ATR-72 operated by Taiwan's TransAsia Airways was carrying 58 passengers and crew when it crashed while landing in the Penghu island chain in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China late Wednesday. The plane was flying from the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

The victims included 46 Taiwanese and two French medical students who were interns in Taiwan.

The airline identified the French passengers as Jeromine Deramond and Penelope Luternauer. They were medical school interns at Taipei's National Taiwan University, the university said.

The airline said one of the injured 10 survivors had gone home and five local residents who were hurt on the ground were treated and released. The crash damaged eight houses, according to Chen Tung-yi, a section chief with the Penghu disaster response center.

"All the bodies have been dug out,'' Chen said.

The crash came hours after Matmo passed over Taiwan. About 200 airline flights at Taiwanese airports had been canceled earlier in the day due to rain and high winds. Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau had warned of heavy rains into Wednesday evening even after Matmo moved west into China.

"According to what we can understand so far, this was due to weather, the influence of the typhoon,'' a TransAsia representative, Phoebe Lu, told The Associated Press. She said the carrier was waiting for Taiwanese authorities to complete an investigation to get confirmation.

The 14-year-old plane lost contact with the tower after saying it would make a second landing attempt, according to the head of Taiwan's air regulator, the Civil Aeronautics Administration, Jean Shen.

Meanwhile, Taiwan authorities said on Thursday it was unlikely bad weather was the cause of the crash. Taiwan's civil aviation authorities said the weather on Wednesday had been suitable for flying and they were trying to determine the cause of the crash.

"There were nine flights on the same route between 2 pm and 7 pm yesterday. Only the TransAsia flight crashed," said Jean Shen, director of the Civil Aeronautics Administration.

"The weather reports showed it was totally OK for landing. We cannot say for sure what went wrong at this point. The flight safety committee has opened an investigation ... they will complete an official report within a year."

Shen said authorities were not ruling anything out. Both black boxes had been found and officials would begin examining them on Thursday, she said.

Visibility as the plane approached was 1,600 meters, which met standards for landing, and two flights had landed shortly before GE222, the aviation agency said.

The Central News Agency, citing the county fire department, said it appeared heavy rain reduced visibility and the pilot was forced to pull up and attempt a second landing.

The plane showed no defects and had ample visibility to land safely, said a spokesman for Taiwan's air regulator, the Civil Aeronautics Administration, Lee Wan-lee.

On Thursday, Taiwanese 'president' Ma Ying-jeou called for one minute of silence in memory of the victims.

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, also conveyed condolences personally and on behalf of the mainland people.

Family members were flying to Magong airport near the crash site to visit a morgue and identify victims, the airline said.

The plane's captain had 22 years of flying experience and the co-pilot had 2-1/2 years, according to the Central News Agency. It said the airline was offering the family of each victim about US$6,600 and paying another US$27,000 for funeral expenses.

The crash of Flight GE222 was Taiwan's first fatal air accident in 12 years.

The island's last major aviation disaster was also near Penghu, a scenic chain of 64 islets about 150 kilometers southwest of the Taiwanese capital, Taipei.

In 2002, a China Airlines Boeing 747 broke apart in midair and crashed into the Taiwan Strait, killing all 225 people aboard.

The ATR 72 is a twin-engine turboprop short-haul regional airliner built by the French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR. It can take more than 70 people on board.

Crash: Airline blames bad weather

A relative of a passenger on board the crashed TransAsia Airways plane cries in Kaohsiung International Airport, southern Taiwan, July 23, 2014. (Photo / Xinhua)

Crash: Airline blames bad weather

Rescue personnel survey the wreckage of TransAsia Airways flight GE222 in Taiwan's Penghu county, July 23, 2014. (Photo / Xinhua)

Crash: Airline blames bad weather

A car is seen covered in rubble from the wreckage of TransAsia Airways flight GE222 in Taiwan's Penghu county, July 23, 2014. (Photo / Agencies)

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