Update as of 7:34 a.m. EST: At least 23 people have been declared dead in the TransAsia Flight GE 235 crash on Wednesday near Taipei, Taiwan, The Associated Press (AP) reported, citing Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration.
While 15 people were rescued from the ATR 72-600, 20 more are still missing, the report said. The twin-engine turboprop aircraft, which was carrying 58 people, crashed into the Keelung River, after clipping a bridge slightly soon after takeoff.
Several people are reported to have perished in Wednesday’s crash of TransAsia Flight GE 235 in Taipei, Taiwan. The ATR72-600 crashed into the Keelung River shortly after takeoff, and rescue operations are currently underway.
While a company statement had confirmed only 13 deaths so far, there were conflicting reports on the number of dead. The Straits Times reported, citing the Taipei Fire Department, that at least 23 people were dead. The Associated Press and Reuters reported that 19 people had died in the crash. Meanwhile, reports from Channel News Asia and the South China Morning Post (SCMP) put the death toll so far at 23.
“At the moment, things don’t look too optimistic,” Wu Jun-hong, a Taipei Fire Department official, said, according to the Guardian, adding: “Those in the front of the plane are likely to have lost their lives.”
Of the 58 people on board, two were children and five were crew members, according to SCMP.
"The front part of the plane crashed straight into the river and the missing could be trapped there," Wu Chun-hung, acting director of the Taipei Fire Department, said, according to SCMP.
According to the Guardian, pilots issued a “Mayday” call shortly after the plane took off from Taipei Songshan Airport, and lost radio contact at 10:53 a.m. local time (9:53 p.m. EST). It was heading to the Kinmen islands off the coast of southeastern China.
There were three pilots on board, according to the Guardian, which cited the Taiwanese Civil Aviation Authority. They were identified as Liao Jianzong, who had nearly 5,000 hours of flight experience, while his co-pilot, Liu Zizhong, had nearly 7,000 hours, the Guardian reported. A trainee pilot, Hong Binzhong, was also on board the French-made ATR72-600.
The plane’s flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were found Wednesday, the Aviation Security Council said, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency. The recordings will reportedly be analyzed later in the evening.
"We want to apologize again. We are very sorry," TransAsia’s CEO Peter Chen said, in a statement, according to Channel News Asia, adding: "TransAsia Airways will do its utmost to help our passengers, the injured, as well as the families of the passengers on board. We will deploy all our resources to help in the rescue efforts as well as in the aftermath of this incident."
The plane, which reportedly had new-model twin engines, was received by the company in April 2014 and had been in service for less than a year.