Experts suspect a "flameout" in one of the engines may have been to blame
Taiwanese search-and-rescue teams continued to search for 11 missing passengers from a TransAsia flight that crashed in Taipei on Wednesday morning, as the confirmed death toll from the disaster reached 32.
Flight 235 went down soon after takeoff after banking hard to the left, clipping a taxi driving on an overpass and slamming into Taipei’s Keelung River. Local broadcasters have released a recording of an unidentified crew member uttering “Mayday” three times before losing contact with the control tower.
Speculation as to why the plane ditched has revolved around the possible failure of the aircraft’s left engine that appeared to be malfunctioning in footage posted online.
“Before it hit the taxi, it made a hard left bank that’s indicative usually of the pilot trying to either avoid something or an uncontrolled event,” Mike Daniel, an international aviation-safety consultant based in Singapore, tells TIME.
However, authorities have refrained from commenting on possible causes until the official investigation concludes. On Wednesday, rescue teams successfully recovered the plane’s flight recorders and pulled its fuselage from the Keelung River after nightfall.
At least 32 people were killed during the crash. Fifteen passengers survived with injuries.
“I’m simply amazed that there were survivors,” says Daniel. “It actually speaks well to the construction of the aircraft to have survivors after that type of impact — not only after hitting the bridge but also cartwheeling into the water.”
TransAsia representatives said the ATR-72 turboprop had been in service for less than a year; however, after being delivered, one of the engines was immediately replaced after functioning improperly, reports the Wall Street Journal.
“Actually, this aircraft in the accident was the newest model. It hadn’t been used for even a year,” Peter Chen, TransAsia’s director, told reporters at a press conference, according to the Associated Press.
Wednesday’s accident marks the airline’s second deadly crash in less than 10 months. In July a TransAsia flight went down near the airport at Magong on Taiwan’s Penghu Island during a rainstorm, killing 48 people and injuring 10.