The pilot of the crashed TransAsia Airways plane has been hailed a hero for steering the stricken aircraft through buildings and ditching it in water, likely preventing even worse tragedy and a further loss of lives.
The pilot has been identified as 42-year-old Liao Chien-tsung. He and the co-pilot of the turboprop ATR 72-600 were found dead in the cockpit still clutching the plane’s controls, investigators said.
In the final transmission before the crash, one of the pilots yelled “Mayday Mayday, engine flameout!”
The plane narrowly avoided apartment blocks and commercial buildings as it lurched downward. Dramatic dash-cam footage shows that the wing clipped an elevated road and a taxi before the aircraft crashed upside-down into the Keelung River.
“He really tried everything he could,” Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je said of the pilot at a press briefing.
Flight GE235 was carrying 58 people on board when the plane went down shortly after take-off from Taipei’s Songshan Airport on Wednesday. At least 31 people were killed, and eight people are still unaccounted for.
A total of 31 Chinese passengers from the Chinese mainland, including three children, were on the flight. According to Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, 22 of them were among the dead.
Watch the Taipei mayor’s emotional speech below.