Family Members of Jet Crash Victims Arrive in Taipei
A China Airlines passenger jetliner with 206 passengers and 19 crew en route from Taipei to Hong Kong crashed into the Taiwan Straits off the island county of Penghu Saturday afternoon.
Taiwanese transportation authorities said that ten vessels and six aircraft on search operations had found more than 100 bodies in the sea some 25 nautical miles north of Penghu where the plane crashed.
No survivors have been found thus far.
The Boeing 747-200 aircraft took off at Taiwan's international airport at 3:03 pm and was scheduled to arrive in Hong Kong at 4:28 pm, but disappeared from radar screens at 3:33 pm when it was 10 nautical miles north of Penghu at a height of 35,000 feet.
Missing Taiwan Plane Confirmed Crashed into Sea
Two Cathay Pacific aircraft flying over the area had reported picking up signals from the China Airlines plane's automatic emergency location indicator, which showed that the aircraft had crashed, reports quoted Hong Kong Airport Authority as saying.
Search aircraft and ships had reportedly found an oil slick, cabinet door and life vests in the sea 20 nautical miles north of Penghu earlier.
Of the 225 victims, there were at least three babies. Two Singaporeans, 14 Hong Kong, Macao and mainland people, and one European were among the victims. The rest were Taiwanese. A total of 114 passengers came from four tourist groups to the mainland, airline officials said.
The last fatal accident for China Airlines was in 1999 when a jetliner flipped over and burst into flames during a crash landingin Hong Kong, killing three people. China Airlines has had nine fatal accidents since 1970.
In recent years, China Airlines has reshuffled its board and has put a greater emphasis on safety.
Local media reported Saturday that China Airlines had already sold the aircraft to a Thai carrier for 1.5 million U.S. dollars and Saturday's flight to Hong Kong was supposed to have been its last service for China Airlines.
Transportation official Chang Chia-juch said that the 22-year-old Boeing 747-200 had logged a total flying time of 64,800 hours and had no record of malfunctions.
But Wei Hsin-hsiung, general manager of China Airlines, said hedoubted that mechanical problems could be the cause of the crash in light of its sudden disappearance from radar screens and because the pilot did not send any kind of distress message to airtraffic controllers.
Reports from Hong Kong quoted acting Director General of Civil Aviation Norman Lo as saying that the Civil Aviation Department received confirmation at 7 pm that a China Airlines flight CI611, which departed from Taipei to Hong Kong at 3:08 pm had crashed into the sea.
Lo said the Hong Kong air traffic control center was informed by the Taipei air traffic control at 3:42 pm that it had lost contact with the plane when the aircraft was within Taiwan air space.
Learning of the tragic accident, Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa said that he was deeply saddened. In a statement he extended condolences to the families of the victims, among whom five -- four men and one woman, were from Hong Kong.
Tung said that the Hong Kong Immigration Department, Civil Aviation Department and the Airport Authority are working closely together to render whatever assistance necessary to the families and friends in Hong Kong of all those affected.