Relatives, friends grieve for Taiwan plane victims as some blame authorities for crash
Some survivors give airline's chairman an earful; others unwilling to assign blame as 54 bodies prepared for transport
More than 100 grieving relatives and friends gathered at a funeral parlour on Penghu Island this afternoon to pay their respects to their loved ones on board TransAsia Airways flight 222 before the bodies of the victims are transported back to the main island of Taiwan.
During TransAsia chairman Vincent Lin’s visit to the crash site this morning, furious relatives confronted him, blaming the deaths on the authorities and the airline, saying the plane should never have been allowed to fly on Wednesday night in bad weather in the aftermath of Typhoon Matmo.
“My son was only 27 years old,” cried a woman who refused to give her name. “How could you do that to him? Give him back to me!”
A relative attending the ceremony this afternoon asked the authorities and the general public not to blame the pilot and the first officer because “They were lives lost, as well.”
A man surnamed Chen, who lost six family members in the crash, said: “We should wait until the investigation report comes out before we blame anyone. None of us speaking here were on the plane, so we don’t have a clear idea of what happened.”
Seven of the identified bodies stored in refrigerated containers will be flown to Kaohsiung this afternoon, and the rest will be flown back to Taiwan in the next two days, local authorities said.
All 48 bodies were recovered by yesterday. As of 5pm today, 36 bodies have been identified and 32 death certificates have been issued. The remaining 12 are undergoing DNA tests, the Penghu District Prosecutors’ Office said.
Suitcases and personal effects scattered around the crash scene are also being itemised, and will be ready for loved ones to collect by the end of today.
Dozens of workers were still cleaning up and disinfecting the crash site this morning after the bodies and plane wreckage were removed. Authorities said recovery crews will need two to three more days to clear the crash site.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration said it would take at least three days to study the flight data and sound recordings after the black boxes were retrieved from the wreckage yesterday. Despite severe damage on the surface of the black boxes, flight data appeared to be intact.
But authorities denied reports that the plane was struck by lightning during the emergency landing, and again raised the point the weather could have changed dramatically after the clearance for take off was given.
Seven French investigators will arrive in Taiwan tonight to join the investigation. Among the dead were two French exchange students at a medical school in Taipei.
The airline ran an apology on the front page of five major local newspapers today, pledging to shoulder the “utmost responsibility”.
“TransAsia pledges to the deceased, the survivors, their relatives, and Penghu residents who were injured to make every effort to deal with the aftermath and provide the best compensation,” the statement read. The airline promised to “reflect deeply and heed the lesson”.
Lin, the airline chairman, paid his respects to the dead at the crash site and visited both the funeral home and a hospital.
Airline investigators began talking to villagers affected by the crash yesterday about the damage the downed plane caused to their property, he added.
The plane for flight GE222 was an ATR-72 twin-engine turboprop carrying 54 passengers and four crew members. It crashed in a village 1km from the runway while trying to land and burst into flames.
Besides 10 passengers who survived, five local residents suffered injuries ranging from serious burns to broken bones. Eight of the surviving passengers were flown to Taipei and Kaohsiung for treatment. One went home yesterday, and one stayed in a hospital in Penghu.
About 200 flights at Taiwanese airports were cancelled on Wednesday because of the typhoon’s rain and high winds.