Survivors, witnesses of deadly crash report 'fire everywhere'
Central News Agency
2014-07-24 10:51 PM
Taipei, July 24 (CNA) Survivors and eyewitnesses of the TransAsia Airways plane crash that killed dozens said they saw massive flames and smelled fuel coming from the flight as it smashed into homes in the outlying island county of Penghu on its way down after a botched landing attempt Wednesday. "There was fire everywhere," said 27-year-old Tsai Pei-ju, one of just 10 survivors of the crash, according to hospital staff in Kaohsiung on Taiwan proper Thursday. Tsai protected his head with a life jacket before unbuckling his seat belt to escape the wreckage. He said he wanted to help other passengers who were trapped near him "but couldn't pull them out," said staff at Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, where he is being treated. Tsai declined to talk directly to the media because he is an active service member of the Navy. According to the hospital's retelling of his account, he and girlfriend Yen Wan-ju, who is also in the Navy, managed to bring a 10-year-old girl with them out of the wreckage as they broke free from the flaming aircraft. Tsai sustained injuries to his chest and other parts of his body, while Yen sustained injuries to her head and neck, their doctor said. The 10-year-old, meanwhile, had injuries to her head and legs and is currently hospitalized in Taipei. Residents in Penghu who witnessed the crash and its aftermath said they saw collapsed buildings and plane debris scattered at the crash site and smelled a strong gasoline odor. After what they described as an earthquake-like shake, residents said they heard people wailing and screaming for help. Three or four passengers crawled out from the wreckage before another explosion, witnesses said. Local residents said they wanted to help rescue people trapped in the plane but could not get near the aircraft because of the billowing flames. GE 222 was carrying 54 passengers and four crew members from Kaohsiung to Penghu when it crashed at 7:06 p.m. Wednesday on approach to Magong Airport. Only 10 people on board survived, according to TransAsia. Meanwhile, the sister of co-pilot Chiang Kuan-hsing questioned why the airplane was still allowed to fly amid inclement weather caused by Typhoon Matmo. "Who is going to give me my brother back?" said the sister, who did not give her name. Pilot Lee Yi-liang's son, who also remained anonymous, told reporters that his father was an experienced pilot with good flying skills. "He was just two years away from retirement," Lee's son said. (By Yeh Tze-kang and Christie Chen)
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