Story highlights

  • Plane was carrying 58 passengers and crew
  • TransAsia ATR 72-600 turboprop plane was on a domestic flight
  • Several passengers trapped inside plane wreckage
  • Crash-landing was caught on dashboard camera

A passenger plane with 58 people on board has plunged into a river outside the Taiwanese capital Taipei, killing 31 people, according to officials.

At least 17 people were still missing, apparently trapped inside the partially submerged plane wreckage. Others have been rescued.

Rescuers worked throughout the night on Wednesday and early Thursday to find the missing. 

The TransAsia ATR 72-600 turboprop plane was on a domestic flight when it hit a road bridge before crashing into the river, the local reports said. 

"I saw a taxi, probably just metres ahead of me, being hit by one wing of the plane. The plane was huge and really close to me. I'm still trembling," one witness, who saw the crash, told TVBS news channel.  

Television footage showed passengers wearing life jackets wading and swimming clear of the river.

Emergency rescue officials in inflatable boats crowded around the partially submerged fuselage, lying on its side in the river, trying to help those on board.

Taiwanese government authorities said the plane was carrying 58 passengers and crew, including 31 tourists from mainland China.

The weather appeared to be clear when the plane took off. Television pictures also showed some damage to a bridge next to the river, with small pieces of the aircraft scattered along the road.

'Mayday, mayday'

The chief executive of TransAsia, Chen Xinde, bowed deeply at a televised news conference as he apologised to passengers and crew.

TransAsia safety record
- July 23, 2014: A TransAsia flight from Kaohsiung to Magong crashed into two houses near the airport in heavy rain, killing 48 of the 58 people on 
board. 
- March 23, 2003: A TransAsia plane collided with a truck as it landed at Tainan Airport, injuring the two people in the truck.
- December 21, 2002: A cargo flight operated by TransAsia en route from Taipei to Macau crashed killing both crew members.
- Jan 30, 1995: All four people on board were killed when an ATR-72 operated by TransAsia crashed 80 kilometres to the south of Taipei.

The last communication from one of the aircraft's pilots was "Mayday Mayday engine flameout", according to an air traffic control recording on liveatc.net.

The crash-landing is the latest in a string of mishaps to hit Asian carriers in the past 12 months. An AirAsia jet bound for Singapore crashed soon after taking off from the Indonesian city of Surabaya on December 28, killing all 162 people on board.

Also last year, a Malaysia Airlines jet disappeared and one of its sister planes was downed over Ukraine with a combined loss of 539 lives.

TransAsia is Taiwan's third-largest carrier.

One of its ATR 72-500 planes crashed while trying to land at Penghu Island last year, killing 48 of the 58 passengers and crew on board.

The plane involved in Wednesday's mishap was among the first of the ATR 72-600s, the latest variant of the turboprop aircraft, that TransAsia received in 2014.

They are among an order of eight placed by TransAsia in 2012. The aircraft have 72 seats each.

The planes are mainly used to connect Taiwan's capital, Taipei, to the island's smaller cities.

Several passengers are still trapped inside the wreckage of TransAsia's ATR 72-600 [Reuters]

The plane was carrying 58 passengers and crew, including 31 tourists from mainland China [Reuters]
The plane was among the first of the ATR 72-600s, the latest variant of the turboprop aircraft, that TransAsia received in 2014 [Reuters]

Source: Agencies