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3 bodies recovered from downed Dapeng plane

Three bodies have been recovered from the Dapeng Airlines BN-2 plane that went missing Aug. 30 in a mountainous area of Hualien County, officials at the Hualien County Fire Bureau said yesterday.

Fire department officials reached the crash site by helicopter, where they discovered the bodies of Hsueh Chen-hao, Chang Ming-chin and Chien Yu-hsin, who were the pilot, co-pilot and aerial photographer respectively.

The bodies were transferred to the municipal funeral home in Hualien City with the help of military personnel, according to fire department officials.

The aircraft, with three passengers aboard, was on an aerial photography mission when it lost contact with ground control on Aug. 30.

The cause of the crash will be investigated, said Sun Chien-ming, special assistant to the chairman of Dapeng Airlines.

“The Aviation Safety Council and Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) will dispatch workers to the crash site to conduct on-site investigation,” Sun said while paying his respects to the families of the victims at the municipal funeral home.

Hsueh Chen-hao, son of the pilot, said the family's biggest hope now is to find out what really happened. “My father was a terrific pilot, and the accident probably wasn't skill-related,” he said, adding his family will now wait for the investigation results.

Rescue workers of Taitung County, meanwhile, hypothesized yesterday that the three crew members were killed instantly upon impact.

According to Taitung fire officials participating in the rescue effort yesterday, the plane hit the ground on a slope less than 20 square meters and apparently slid for 10 meters. The head of the plane was completely destroyed, the right wing broke and an engine fell off.

The bodies of the pilot and co-pilot were piled on top of each other, and the photographer was in the backseat, his body crushed by heavy equipment, rescuers said. As there were no signs of a struggle at the scene, rescue workers assumed that they were killed immediately or soon after the plane hit the ground.

The CAA said yesterday it has asked the relevant agencies to examine why it took three days for rescuers to locate a downed Dapeng Airlines plane, even after the aircraft transmitted 10 emergency signals.

The National Search and Rescue Command Center dispatched four helicopters the same day to the area where the plane was last seen before it disappeared from radar screens, but they failed to locate the aircraft.

A source close to the matter told CNA that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications had suggested that the rescue center send helicopters to search an area where nine of the 10 emergency signals from the aircraft had originated.

However, the center remained focused on searching the area where the aircraft was last seen before it disappeared from radar, the source said on condition of anonymity.

Chen Ming-hua, the head of a volunteer rescue association in Kaohsiung, said the command center was “disorganized” and “chaotic” in its rescue efforts.

The center did not do all it could in the critical 72-hour period after the plane disappeared, Chen was cited as saying in a United Evening News report.

On Sept. 1, a helicopter dispatched by Great Wing Airline, another aerial photography company, flew over the area from which the nine signals had emanated and spotted the BN-2 plane on the side of a mountain in Hualien.

The helicopter was not able to land because of heavy fog but reported that the airplane appeared to be mostly intact.

Coincidentally, Sancha Mountain, the place where the plane fell, was the site of another accident back in 1945, when an U.S. Air Force craft carrying released prisoners of war from the Philippines crashed. All 26 on board died.

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Rescue workers retrieve bodies from a Dapeng Airlines BN-2 plane that crashed in Hualien County, yesterday. The bodies were transferred to the Hualien City municipal funeral home. (CNA)

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