TransAsia pilots hailed as heroes as death toll for Taipei plane crash rises to 32

By Ryan Kilpatrick, February 5, 2015

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The recently-elected mayor of Taipei Ko Wen-je paid a tearful tribute to the pilot of TransAsia flight GE235 earlier this morning. 

Speaking at the emergency response center established to deal with the catastrophe, Ko said that the crash was a tragedy "but we must still thank that pilot."

The ATR 72-600 aircraft was only in the air for a minute and a half before aviation authorities received a "Mayday" signal from the pilots, both of whom remain missing in the disaster's aftermath.

The Kinmen-bound flight was jointly piloted by Liao Chien-tsung, 42, and Liu Tse-chung, 45, with copilot Hong Bing-chung observing the flight as a part of his training. Liao and Liu had flight hours exceeding 3,400 and 6,500 respectively on ATR 72-type aircraft alone. 

As well as ditching the plane into a body of water to achieve the softest landing possible, Liao and Liu managed to avoid any casualties on the ground - not an easy feat taking off from Taipei's Songshan Airport, located centrally amongst densely populated and busy urban areas. 

The driver and two passengers aboard the taxi that the plane clipped with its wingtip during descent were all unharmed.

Mayor Ko also pointed out that the site of the crash landing was just 50 meters away from hight-voltage electrical transmission lines, and that if the pilots hadn't impacted where they did half of the national capital would have been plunged into darkness.

"The pilots did their best," Ko added, after bowing to their pictures. 

Overnight, the submerged aircraft was pulled ashore from the Keelung River, revealing the bodies of more victims. The death toll currently sits at 32, with 12 passengers still unaccounted for. 

[Image via Apple Daily]

READ MORE: 40 passengers trapped in aircraft after TransAsia flight crashes into Taipei riverAt least 10 passengers confirmed dead after Songshan-Kinmen flight plunges into Taipei river 

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