|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
Flight recorders recovered at crash scene in Taiwan
TAIPEI, Taiwan (CNN) -- Aviation officials and rescuers searched through the wreckage of Singapore Airlines flight 006 after an "aborted takeoff" that, according to the Taiwanese transportation minister, killed at least 77 people.
The Boeing 747-400 bound for Los Angeles, California, crashed and broke apart during stormy weather at 11:18 p.m. (14:18 GMT) Tuesday as it was accelerating for takeoff at Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport. Flames quickly filled the fuselage and melted portions of the fractured craft. Amateur video taken by a passenger aboard another aircraft showed flames and smoke billowing from the aircraft.
At the crash scene Wednesday morning, investigators recovered the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder. They said they had already debriefed the pilot, co-pilot and navigator.
John Diaz, a passenger who survived the crash, described the plane as "shaking and sliding." He said when he was able to open a door to escape, he "got out and just started running and the whole thing blew up." Added Diaz, "There were flames all over the place."
Passengers from many countries
On Wednesday, officials confirmed that 77 people died in the crash, 54 others had been hospitalized, and that 48 people had been released from the hospital. An airlines spokesman said 159 passengers and 20 crew had been on board the plane at the time of the crash.
The passengers included 55 Taiwanese, 47 Americans and 11 Singaporeans, as well as citizens from at least a dozen other countries, Boyd said.
A U.S. State Department official said authorities had confirmed that 22 Americans survived the crash, but did not say whether any Americans were among the dead or missing.
Crew reported hitting something
The badly damaged plane came to rest on a runway parallel to the one it was supposed to be on, but authorities are not certain if the jet tried to take off on the wrong runway or landed on it in the aftermath of the accident. There was some construction machinery on the runway where the wreckage lay.
"The flight commander on board the aircraft reported hitting an object on the takeoff run," said Boyd, who described the crash as an "aborted takeoff."
Initial reports said the Boeing 747 experienced some sort of wind shear upon takeoff and fell flat to the ground, breaking in half and bursting into flames.
'... The plane broke apart'
"All of a sudden the plane broke apart," said an unidentified passenger who was interviewed in a Taipei hospital. "I was sitting in the tail section," and after the crash "the tail section was completely on its side. We couldn't open the emergency door because it was on the ground, it wouldn't open. It started filling with smoke, and I was afraid that we would be getting afire, but fortunately it did not ignite."
Another man who survived the crash said the right wing of the plane "touched the ground" and fire erupted.
"I was burned -- it was very painful," he said. "But I was able to get out of the plane before the explosion."
The weather was windy and rainy, with the island bracing for a typhoon. Diaz said he had been concerned about taking off in the storm.
"The weather was absolutely horrendous," he said in an interview with CNN. "I couldn't even believe they were going to take off. We got on the plane. We started taking off on the runway. It seemed like it was just getting ready to lift off and it felt like we hit something. And the next thing you know the whole plane was shaking and sliding. It burst into flames right next to me; the whole carriage started to slip. Then it slid to a stop. There were flames everywhere and smoke everywhere."
Preliminary speculation into the cause of the crash will focus on how weather may have affected the flight. Typhoon Xangsane had moved closer to the island's southern coast on Tuesday, and heavy rains had already begun soaking Taipei, the capital.
The typhoon was packing 90 mph (144 km/h) winds. It was expected to make landfall by Wednesday if it maintained its current course, the Central Weather Bureau said.
In an interview with CNN, Jim Eckes of Indoswiss Aviation said investigators will first look at how severe the weather was at the time of takeoff. Eckes said investigators will then look into whose decision it was -- air traffic controllers or the pilot -- to take off.
Nearly unblemished safety record
Boyd said the Boeing 747-400 was purchased new from the manufacturer in 1997 and had its most recent major maintenance work done September 16. "Up until now, the aircraft carried no major defects," he said.
Singapore Airlines had previously enjoyed a nearly unblemished safety record throughout its 28-year history. Its only other fatal accident was a 1997 crash in Indonesia of a plane operated by its subsidiary, SilkAir, which killed 104 passengers and crew members.
Singapore Airlines itself had never had a fatal accident, said Rick Clement, the airline's vice president of public affairs.
The airline has set up a number for families to call for information: (65) 542-3311 outside the United States or 1-800-828-0508 from within the United States.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to assist in the investigation. Boeing, the jet manufacturer, and Pratt and Whitney, the engine maker, are also sending teams.
Rescuers locate Taiwan airliner wreckage
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.