A passenger on TransAsia Airways Flight 235, who was among 15 people rescued from the plane that crashed on Wednesday, told his wife that a last-minute seat change and a stranger's help saved his life. The plane, which was carrying 58 people, crashed into the Keelung River near Taipei, Taiwan, killing 35, while eight people remain missing.
Chen Ming-chung, a 50-year-old property broker, had an "uneasy feeling" before he boarded the plane and insisted on a seat change, his wife Shih Chiu-mei told the South China Morning Post. His original seat was reportedly on the side that first hit the water. The plane, which was on its way from Taipei Songshan Airport to the Kinmen islands off the coast of southeastern China, crashed minutes after takeoff.
"His life was really saved because of that," Shih reportedly said, adding: "My husband saw a stewardess thrown to the ceiling of the cabin while strapped in her seat, and there was constant screaming.
"Some passengers were hit by debris while the bodies of others were pierced by sharp metal. It was like a bloodbath in a movie."
Shih reportedly said that her husband, who is being treated for a broken arm at a Taipei hospital, told her that the left side of the plane was filled with muddy water and a crack had opened up in the tail section, but he was locked in his seat and could not move to safety.
A man came to his aid after he shouted for help, Shih reportedly said, adding that Chen wanted to find the man and thank him in person. Shih also reportedly said that she heard from news reports that a 71-year-old retired physician had helped several people unlock their seatbelts and reach safety.
The Taipei Fire Department reportedly said the ATR 72-600 aircraft broke into three sections, with its tail and fuselage half-submerged in the water and its nose was buried three meters in the river's mud.
Another survivor, Huang Jin-sun, claimed he felt there was something wrong with the plane’s engine. "There was some sound next to me. It did not feel right shortly after takeoff. The engine did not feel right," the 72-year-old man told ETTV, a local network, on Thursday.
The aircraft was reportedly less than a year old but one of its engines had been replaced last April, after authorities discovered a glitch with the original engine, the airline said, according to The Associated Press.
The plane’s flight data recorders have been recovered by authorities and will be analyzed to determine the cause of the crash.