TIME

Relatives Fly to Taiwan Plane-Crash Site, 48 Dead

TAIWAN-AVIATION-ACCIDENT
Rescue workers and firefighters search through the wreckage where a TransAsia Airways flight crashed the night before near the airport at Magong on the Penghu island chain on July 24, 2014 Sam Yeh—AFP/Getty Images

The TransAsia Airways plane from southern Taiwan crashed into a residential neighborhood on Penghu, an island chain in the Taiwan Strait, killing 48 of the 58 passengers on board. The aircraft unsuccessfully attempted to land in stormy weather late on Wednesday

(TAIPEI, Taiwan) — Family members of victims of a plane crash were flying to the small Taiwanese island on Thursday where the plane had unsuccessfully attempted to land in stormy weather, killing 48. There were 10 survivors, and authorities were searching for one person who might have been in a wrecked house on the ground.

The ATR-72 operated by Taiwan’s TransAsia Airways was carrying 58 passengers and crew when it crashed into a residential neighborhood on Penghu in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China late Wednesday, authorities said. The plane was on a flight from the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

Two people aboard the plane were French citizens and the rest Taiwanese, Transport Minister Yeh Kuang-shih told reporters. The government’s Central News Agency identified the French passengers Thursday as Jeromine Deramond and Penelope Luternauer.

The twin-engine turboprop crashed while making a second landing attempt, Yeh said.

The news agency quoted a TransAsia Airways statement as saying family members had taken a charter flight on Thursday morning to Magong airport, near where the crash happened.

The crash of Flight GE222 was Taiwan’s first fatal air accident in 12 years and came after Typhoon Matmo passed across the island, causing heavy rains that continued into Wednesday night. About 200 airline flights had been canceled earlier in the day due to rain and strong winds.

The official death toll was 48, according to Wen Chia-hung, spokesman for the Penghu disaster response center. He said the 10 other people were injured.

Authorities were looking for one person who might have been in a house that was struck by wreckage, Wen said.

President Ma Ying-jeou called it “a very sad day in the history of Taiwanese aviation,” according to a spokesman for his office, Ma Wei-kuo, the Central News Agency reported. The agency said the plane’s captain had 22 years of flying experience and the co-pilot had 2-1/2 years. The airline was offering the family of each victim about $6,600 and paying another $27,000 for funeral expenses, the agency reported.

The plane came down in the village of Xixi outside the airport. Television stations showed rescue workers pulling bodies from the wreckage. Photos in local media showed firefighters using flashlights to look through the wreckage and buildings damaged by debris.

Penghu, a scenic chain of 64 islets, is a popular tourist site about 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of the Taiwanese capital, Taipei.

Residents said they heard thunder and then what sounded like an explosion, the news agency said. It cited the Central Weather Bureau as saying there were thunderstorms in the area.

“I heard a loud bang,” a local resident was quoted as saying by television station TVBS. “I thought it was thunder, and then I heard another bang and I saw a fireball not far away from my house.”

The flight left Kaohsiung at 4:53 p.m. for Magong on Penghu, according to the head of Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration, Jean Shen. The plane lost contact with the tower at 7:06 p.m. after saying it would make a second landing attempt.

Visibility as the plane approached was 1,600 meters (one mile), which met standards for landing, and two flights had landed before GE222, one at 5:34 p.m. and the other at 6:57 p.m., the aviation agency reported. Shen said the plane was 14 years old.

The Central News Agency, citing the county fire department, said it appeared heavy rain reduced visibility and the pilot was forced to pull up and attempt a second landing.

The Central Weather Bureau had warned of heavy rain Wednesday evening, even after the center of the storm had moved west to mainland China.

In Taipei, TransAsia Airways’ general manager, Hsu Yi-Tsung, bowed deeply before reporters and tearfully apologized for the accident, the news agency said.

“As TransAsia is responsible for this matter, we apologize. We apologize,” Hsu said.

Taiwan’s last major aviation disaster was also near Penghu. In 2002, a China Airlines Boeing 747 broke apart in midair and crashed into the Taiwan Strait, killing all 225 people aboard.

___

Associated Press writers Gillian Wong, Joe McDonald and Louise Watt in Beijing and Johnson Lai in Taipei contributed to this report.

TIME Ukraine

Malaysia Airlines Ukraine Crash: ‘No Evidence’ Black Boxes Tampered With

A pro-Russian separatist shows members of the media a black box belonging to Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, before its handover to Malaysian representatives, in Donetsk on July 22, 2014.
A pro-Russian separatist shows members of the media a black box belonging to Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, before its handover to Malaysian representatives, in Donetsk on July 22, 2014. Maxim Zmeyev—Reuters

"A thorough analysis of the information obtained will take time"

A team of investigators led by the Dutch Safety Board said in a report Wednesday there’s “no evidence” that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17′s cockpit voice recorders had been manipulated after the crash.

The Dutch Safety Board requested that the Air Accident Investigation Branch of the United Kingdom (AAIB) analyze Flight 17′s data recorders, also known as “black boxes” despite their typically bright orange color.

Many observers were concerned the black boxes — which include a cockpit voice recorder as well as a flight data recorder — were somehow tampered with by pro-Russia Ukrainian rebels who control the scene of the crash. Speculation that said rebels may have been responsible for shooting down Flight 17, some say, was a potential incentive for the rebels to damage or destroy the devices to hinder an investigation.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a Boeing 777, crashed July 17 in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 on board.

TIME celebrities

Orange Co-Star Jason Biggs Apologizes for Malaysia Crash Tweets

Cast member Jason Biggs attends the season two premiere of "Orange is the New Black" in New York
Cast member Jason Biggs attends the season two premiere of "Orange is the New Black" in New York on May 15, 2014. Biggs sparked public outrage after a series of controversial Twitter posts about Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 shortly after it crashed. Eric Thayer—Reuters

The actor who sparked public outrage months ago about flight MH370 has done it again — this time about MH17

A series of tweets by actor Jason Biggs on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was reportedly shot down by a missile in a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists, has caused outrage on social media.

Biggs, who stars in Orange Is the New Black, wrote in a tweet that has since been deleted, “Anyone wanna buy my Malaysian Airlines frequent flier miles?”

While some saw nothing wrong in making what appeared to be a dark joke in response to grim news, many of his nearly 450,000 followers considered the tweet offensive.

Biggs initially responded to critics with a series of profane tweets accusing them of being overly sensitive, “You don’t have to think it’s funny, or even be on my twitter page at all,” he said.

However, he later deleted his initial tweets and offered an apology to his fans, “People were offended, and that was not my intent. Sorry to those of you that were,” Biggs wrote. “This is obviously a horrible tragedy, and everyone — including myself — is sad and angry about it. Sending positive thoughts to the victims and their families.”

The actor, who is best known for his role in the American Pie films, is no stranger to tweeting controversial remarks. In the days following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March, Biggs also triggered outrage with a reference to the missing plane in a tweet about the U.S. reality-TV show The Bachelor.

TIME Transportation

Malaysia Airlines Ukraine Crash: FAA Bans U.S. Flight Routes Over Region

Emergencies Ministry members walk at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash, MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region
Emergencies Ministry members walk at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash, MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, on July 17, 2014. Maxim Zmeyev—Reuters

Other nations' air carriers have also adjusted flight routes to avoid the region

The Federal Aviation Adminstration (FAA) has released a Notice to Airman barring U.S. flight operations within the Simferopol and Dnepropetrovsk regions of Eastern Ukraine following the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was reportedly shot down over the war-torn area.

The new flight paths prohibited on Thursday are an addition to routes that were axed by the FAA in April throughout the Crimean region of Ukraine, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. “Events have indicated the potential for continued hazardous activities,” The FAA wrote in the statement.

The Boeing 777 plane, which was flying to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam, crashed between the Luhansk and Donetsk regions on Thursday. Ukrainian and U.S. officials say that a missile targeted the plane, although is remains unconfirmed which side involved in Ukraine’s civil war was responsible for the action.

According to the FAA statement, there are currently no U.S. flights scheduled to fly through eastern Ukraine. The prohibition will be reviewed again in October. Along with U.S. flight operations, other nations’ air carriers have also adjusted flight routes to avoid the region, says the BBC.

TIME Asia

Malaysia Airlines Ukraine Crash: Disaster Strikes Twice

Less than five months after MH370 mysteriously disappeared, Malaysia Airlines is reeling from a second disaster after a Boeing 777 was reportedly shot down over Ukraine on Thursday

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(HANOI, Vietnam) — Two Boeing 777s. Two incredibly rare aviation disasters. And one airline.

In what appears to be a mind-boggling coincidence, Malaysia is reeling from the second tragedy to hit its national airline in less than five months.

On March 8, a Malaysia Airlines jetliner vanished about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, spawning an international mystery that remains unsolved. On Thursday, the airline — and the nation — were pitched into another crisis after the same type of aircraft was reported shot down over Ukraine.

Ukraine said the plane was brought down by a missile over the violence-wracked eastern part of the country. Other details were only just beginning to emerge.

But what’s certain is that the struggling airline and the nation must now prepare for another agonizing encounter with grief, recriminations, international scrutiny and serious legal and diplomatic implications.

“This is a tragic day in what has already been a tragic year for Malaysia,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said.

Amid it all, a question: Just how could disaster strike the airline twice in such a short space of time?

“Either one of these events has an unbelievably low probability,” said John Cox, president and CEO of Safety Operating Systems and a former airline pilot and accident investigator. “To have two in a just a few months of each other is certainly unprecedented.”

The first disaster deeply scarred Malaysia and left the world dumbstruck. How could a Boeing 777-200ER, a modern jumbo jet, simply disappear? Flight 370 had veered off course during a flight to Beijing and is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean far off the western Australian coast.

The search area has changed several times, but no sign of the aircraft, or the 239 people aboard, has been found. Until then, how the plane got there is likely to remain a mystery.

On Thursday, there was no mystery over the whereabouts of the Boeing 777-200ER, which went down on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 283 passengers and 15 crew members. Its wreckage was found in Ukraine, and there were no survivors.

Officials said the plane was shot down at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet.) The region has seen severe fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists in recent days.

“If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice,” Malaysia’s prime minister said.

Malaysia Airlines was widely criticized for the way it handled the Flight 370 hunt and investigation. Some relatives of those on board accused the airline of engaging in a cover-up, and there have been persistent conspiracy theories over the fate of the plane, including that it might have been shot down.

There was no immediate reason to think the two disasters to befall the airline were in any way linked.

Najib said the plane’s flight route had been declared safe by the global civil aviation body. And Cox said that to his knowledge, there was no prohibition against flying over eastern Ukraine despite the fighting on the ground.

Charles Oman, a lecturer at the department of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said it was too early to draw conclusions.

“Given the military conflict in the region, one has to be concerned that identities could have been mistaken,” he said in an email.

Malaysia Airlines was especially criticized for the way it handled the communications around the missing jetliner, which presented unique challenges because of the uncertainty facing the relatives of those on board. With the plane crashing Thursday over land and its wreckage already located, there will be no such uncertainty.

But the investigation will be just as sensitive. There will be legal and diplomatic implications depending on who was responsible.

“The airline and the Malaysian transport ministry took a lot of hits for the way they handled MH370, due to their inexperience,” Oman said. “Hopefully they will do better this time.”

The accident will surely inflict more financial damage on Malaysia Airlines. Even before the March disaster, it reported a loss of $370 million in 2013 when most of the word’s other airlines were posting an average profit of 4.7 percent. After the Flight 370 disaster, passengers canceled flights, and even though the airline is insured, it faces uncertainty over payouts to the victims’ families.

“They were in worse shape than any other airline in the world before even the first incident,” said Seth Kaplan, managing partner of industry newsletter Airline Weekly. “There’s little precedent for an airline going through what they have gone through let alone surviving it.”

TIME History

15 Years Later: Remembering JFK Jr.

JFK Jr. TIME Cover
The cover of TIME's July 26, 1999 issue: "John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. 1960-1999" Ken Regan—TIME

The son of the 35th president was 38-years-old when his plane was lost at sea

Fifteen years ago Wednesday, a shocked nation grieved as the Kennedy family lost another one of their own. John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr., 38, died in a plane crash with his wife and sister-in-law on July 16, 1999.

“He was lost on that troubled night, but we will always wake for him, so that his time, which was not doubled but cut in half, will live forever in our memory and in our beguiled and broken hearts,” then-Sen. Ted Kennedy said in a eulogy for his nephew, an American icon turned magazine editor. Kennedy outlived his nephew by 10 years, passing away in 2009 after nearly a half-century in the U.S. Senate.

In that same eulogy, Kennedy praised the “lifelong mutual admiration society” shared between JFK Jr. and his sister Caroline, who now serves as the United State ambassador to Japan.

Kennedy was often asked whether he would further the political legacy of his father, who died when his son was only two years old. JFK Jr. once said of his father, “He inspired a lot of hope and created a sense of possibility, and then the possibility was cut short and never realized.”

Read TIME’s special 1999 cover story marking JFK Jr.’s death here.

TIME

Year after Firefighter Deaths, Town Moves Forward

PRESCOTT, Ariz. — Reminders of the Granite Mountain Hotshots are spread throughout Station 7.

Around the crew’s former firehouse, their pictures surround a quilt hanging on the wall, their names are inscribed on a wooden table and the vehicles they drove to their final wildfire sit parked in the garage, with slips of paper marking their seat assignments.

Over the past year, the station in Prescott has become a source of solace and heartache.

People have parked their cars outside, sharing stories of loss and pride in the 19 Hotshots who died on June 30, 2013, in the deadliest day for U.S. fire crews since 9/11. Families have sunk into the seats of the crew’s vehicles, imagining the final ride.

The tragedy has seen the community go from an outpouring of support in the days after the deaths to animosity over survivors’ benefits to blaming fire officials for mismanaging the blaze. Through it all, the community has balanced how to mourn and honor the men with how to move forward.

“We’ll never move on,” said Darrell Willis, chief of the Prescott Fire Department’s Wildland Division. “They will always be in our mind.”

Nowhere is that more apparent in the northern Arizona town than at Station 7.

A chore list posted on the inside door of one of the crew vehicles, or buggies, lists Clay Whitted’s job as “Bossin Like A Boss.” One of the steering wheels has a mustache-shaped sticker that reads “STASHTASTIC” — a reference to Andrew Ashcraft, who’d sit in the driver’s seat.

A magazine clipping above a flat-screen TV where they watched movies like “Smoke Jumpers” and “Dumb and Dumber” while on the road asks: “What’s the worst that could happen?”

The day they died, afternoon thunderstorms and erratic winds caused a fire they were fighting near Yarnell to shift directions, turning on them and trapping them in a brush-choked canyon. They deployed their fire shelters in a last-ditch effort to save themselves.

When the buggies returned without the men, thousands of people lined the streets of Yarnell, Prescott and surrounding communities to salute them.

Since then, the healing process hasn’t been easy.

One widow led a successful campaign to secure full survivors’ benefits. A father is trying to develop a better fire shelter. A family set up a fund to help aspiring firefighters learn the basics. Baseball scholarships are named for one of the Hotshots.

“You have to make friends with the uncomfortable feeling of missing them every day, because if you don’t, it’s going to destroy you,” said Danny Parker, whose son Wade was killed in the fire. “The No. 1 thing that we believe is we’ve got to have the faith that God has a bigger plan than us.”

For Gayemarie Ekker, whose son Joe Thurston was killed, her saving grace is the support from firefighters and the community, and conversations with her daughter-in-law and two young grandsons. “We’re all doing the best we can,” she said.

The losses were felt deeply in the firefighting community, too.

Firefighters helped remove the thousands of items from a memorial fence outside Station 7, but some of them avoided the cataloguing “afraid it would rip them to shreds emotionally, and sometimes that happened,” said Katie Cornelius, who put together an exhibit for the anniversary.

The firefighters now find levity in a log illuminated with lights for each of the Hotshots, understanding in an oil painting that shows 19 hearses heading up the mountain and deep appreciation for a child’s simple words: “I sorry for your loss.”

In Yarnell, where flames destroyed 127 homes, residents struggled with looters during evacuations, displacement, resentment that the community was being overshadowed by the firefighters’ deaths and anger over what some viewed as a slow firefighting response.

As the first houses rose from the ashes, people saw recovery as a real possibility.

“We feel the best way to honor those 19 is to make this a vibrant, alive community, and that’s what we’re doing,” said resident Chuck Tidey.

A recovery group has taken in nearly $1.6 million in donations, a figure Tidey said wouldn’t have been as large without the link to the Hotshots.

Station 7 is now home to a new crew of firefighters who do the work the Granite Mountain Hotshots were built upon — clearing brush from around homes in Prescott and teaching people what it means to be fire wise.

“This was their second home, you respect it,” said 27-year-old Ronnie Gamble.

These crew members, however, aren’t Hotshots and don’t aspire to be.

They pay their tributes in small ways. As part of tradition, they do push-ups if they lay a foot on a series of tiles with the initials “GMIHC” at the firehouse entrance, only now they do 19. Their black T-shirts, which resemble the Hotshots’, will be replaced with blue ones featuring an orange “19″ on the sleeve.

Colleen Turbyfill, whose son Travis was among the dead, visited the firehouse recently for the first time since the days after the tragedy. She climbed into the passenger seat of one of the buggies, rubbing her hands across a sticker with his name taped to the dashboard and sobbed.

“Did he talk on this?” she asked, pointing to the radio.

Pressing down the call button, she said: “I love you, Travis.”

TIME South Korea

South Korean Ferry’s Owner Detained by Police

Kim Han-sik
Kim Han-sik, president of Chonghaejin, is escorted by helpers to hold a press conference at Incheon Port International Passenger Terminal in Incheon, South Korea on April 17, 2014. Yonhap/AP

Authorities in South Korea have charged Kim Han-sik, head of the firm that owned the Sewol ferry, with crimes related to the mid-April sinking that has left more than 300 people dead or missing

The head of the firm that operated the doomed South Korean ferry Sewol has been detained over allegations of overloading the vessel.

Investigators believe that excessive and improperly stowed freight may have caused the Sewol to capsize off the southwest coast of South Korea on April 16 with 476 people on board. Kim Han-sik, president of Chonghaejin, was detained Thursday ahead of any possible formal charges.

“I feel very sorry for the victims …. their family members. I committed a grave sin,” Kim told South Korean television outside a detention facility in the southern port city of Mokpo.

All 15 surviving crew members with responsibilities for the stricken vessel’s navigation have already been arrested and could face charges of negligence and failing to protect passengers. Four other Chonghaejin employees had already been arrested prior to the detention of Kim.

According to documents, the Sewol was carrying more than three times its cargo limit when it sank en route from the port city of Inchon to the vacation island of Jeju.

Meanwhile, officials say that a “clerical error” means the true death toll from the tragedy is likely to be 304. On Wednesday, the national coastguard chief admitted that only 172 people had survived the disaster, and not 174 as officials had previously maintained. Thirty-five people remain missing and are presumed dead. More than four-fifths of the passengers were teenagers on a high school outing.

South Korea’s prime minister said Wednesday that the onus was on divers to complete their search of the sunken hulk by Saturday, when hitherto weak tidal currents are forecast to intensify once again.

TIME

Civilian Diver Dies Searching for Bodies From South Korea Ferry

South Korean Sewol ferry
Vessels involved in salvage operations are seen near the upturned Sewol ferry in the sea off the South Korean town of Jindo on April 17, 2014 Issei Kato—Reuters

The latest fatality connected to the Sewol ferry, which sank last month off the coast of South Korea and left more than 300 people dead or missing, is a civilian diver on his first trip down to the submerged hull to retrieve the bodies of victims

A civilian diver helping to search for dozens of people still missing from the doomed South Korean ferry died Tuesday after getting into trouble while scouring the sunken hulk.

The 53-year-old was pulled to the surface by fellow divers after becoming uncommunicative about five minutes into his first search of the stricken Sewol, the Associated Press reports.

The ill-fated vessel departed the port city of Incheon with 476 people on board but capsized off South Korea’s southwest coast on April 16. More than 300 people are confirmed dead or are still missing, mostly teenagers on a high school outing to the resort island of Jeju.

Twenty-two of the 29 crew members survived, of whom all 15 responsible for the ship’s navigation — including the captain — have been arrested and face various charges including possible negligent homicide. Four others connected with Chonghaejin Marine, the company that ran the ferry, have also been detained.

Despite the diver’s death, others continued their searches Tuesday, buoyed by improving weather and lessening ocean currents. Investigators believe the remaining bodies yet to be recovered will be found in 64 of the ship’s 111 areas.

Investigators continue to probe into allegations of unsafe modifications and overloading of cargo as possibly being behind the tragedy. The ferry was carrying an estimated 3,608 tons of cargo, more than three times what was deemed safe by marine authorities, according to official documents. It also apparently had shed much of the ballast water necessary to maintain stability to accommodate the extra freight.

The sinking has shocked the nation, and 1.1 million South Koreans had paid respects at 131 memorial altars by Sunday.

President Park Geun-hye again criticized the role played by the ferry operator and government officials during an address Tuesday to mark the Buddha’s birthday at a temple in Seoul.

“Safety rules that must be observed were not followed because of worldly desires, and irresponsible acts that tolerated those injustices have resulted in death,” she said.

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