AVIATION

Couple who survived Taiwan air crash rescued schoolgirl from wreckage

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 July, 2014, 4:15am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 July, 2014, 6:03pm

Military couple Tsai Pei-ju and Yen Wan-ju were on their way back to the navy base on Penghu Island where they are stationed when they boarded flight GE222 at Kaohsiung International Airport.

The ill-fated flight ended with them in the mangled remains of the TransAsia Airways plane after it ploughed into village homes. Yet, amazingly, both survived.

"The whole cabin was like a busted can," Tsai later told reporters from Taiwan Television and Eastern Television. "I saw the elderly and children pinned beneath the seats, but I was too weak to pull them out."

The couple found a wounded schoolgirl while climbing towards lights glimmering in the distance, and struggled to bring her out from the smoking wreckage, local media reported.

All three were taken to hospitals in Kaohsiung and Taipei and were in stable condition last night. Ten-year-old Lee Wei-tung, the youngest survivor, suffered severe burns and smoke inhalation, and is in intensive care.

Video: Rescuers reach Taiwan plane crash scene as relatives gather at local hospitals

Rescue teams told the United Evening News bodies were scattered all around the crash site. The military sent counsellors to the scene to help frontline rescuers, the paper reported.

The plane crashed in a village one kilometre from the runway after it requested a go-around in bad weather.

Hung Yu-ting, 34, one of only 10 survivors, was the first to clamber from the wreckage despite being pinned beneath seats, Central News Agency said.

Suffering from burns to her back and legs, she managed to run to a nearby house to call her father for help, the agency quoted him as saying.

"She told me 'the plane crashed' and sounded weak over the phone," he said.

Hung, a Penghu resident, had taken another TransAsia flight to Kaohsiung on Tuesday for a conference that had been cancelled due to Typhoon Matmo.

Hung was last night in intensive care in a Kaohsiung hospital.

The father said he lived close to the disaster scene but had mistaken the crash of the plane during a storm for peals of thunder before receiving the unexpected call from his daughter.

He said he and other villagers pulled another man from the wreckage, "but the flames spread so fast that we could not got any closer to the crash site".

Firefighters were shocked by the scale of the damage. Hsin Wen-hsiang, who has served the fire bureau in Penghu as a volunteer for 12 years, said he could barely look at the eyes of victims. "They look so frightened," he told the United Evening News.

Hsin added that he could not tell if the ground around the wreckage was wet from rain or blood.

Picking through the wreckage looking for victims, Hsin said he found a man whose face was covered in blood. But the man insisted on staying at the scene until his two children were rescued, the firefighter said.

"'Please help save my children. They were left inside the cabin', the father kept telling the rescue teams in tears," Hsin said.

He described the heartbreaking moment when the distraught father almost fainted after the bodies of his two children were found.