Updated: 07/26/2014 05:30 | By Agence France-Presse

Taiwan airline sorry for crash as relatives blast chairman

Taiwan's TransAsia Airways ran an apology on the front pages of five major newspapers Friday, pledging to shoulder the "utmost responsibility" after 48 people died when one of its planes crashed in stormy weather.


Taiwan airline sorry for crash as relatives blast chairman

Rescue workers and firefighters search through the wreckage of TransAsia Airways flight GE222 after it crashed near the airport at Magong on the Penghu island chain on July 24, 2014 - by Sam Yeh

It came after grieving relatives confronted airline chairman Vincent Lin as he was paying respects to the dead at a funeral home, and as it emerged that a 10-year-old survivor battling burn injuries had been rescued at great risk by two fellow passengers.

The ATR 72-500 propeller plane on a domestic flight was carrying 54 passengers and four crew when it plunged into houses in Magong in the Penghu islands Wednesday, leaving just 10 survivors, some of them badly injured. Two French medical students were among the dead.

"TransAsia and its staff express our deepest condolences for those who died on Flight GE222 and offer our apologies to the relatives and the injured," it said in a statement covering half the front page of five newspapers.

"TransAsia pledges to the deceased, the survivors and their relatives as well as Penghu residents who were injured to shoulder the utmost responsibility and make every effort to deal with the aftermath and provide the best compensation."

A team of Experts from France's Bureau of Accident Investigation and the French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR were expected to arrive in Taiwan late Friday to assist in the investigation into the cause of the crash, Taiwanese officials said.   

Meanwhile, Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou visited 10-year-old Lee Wei-tung, who was rescued by two passengers, themselves also wounded, from the wreckage of the plane. She was transferred to a hospital in Taipei and is in stable condition.

"The pressing task for the government is to clarify the cause of the incident and give the people an answer ... We will demand relevant authorities to enhance aviation safety measures," Ma told reporters.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration's deputy director Lee Wan-li on Friday dismissed criticism that he tried to point finger at the pilot for commenting earlier that "pilots have the right to decide" whether to land or not, saying he was merely "presenting the facts."

Relatives of 60-year-old pilot Lee Yi-liang, who had 22 years of experience and was killed in the crash, defended him by saying that it was unfair to lay blame without evidence.

"Is it reasonable to blame the deceased who couldn't speak up and to say that it was improperly operating (the plane)? We are the victims too. Who would have wanted to fly in typhoon weather," his son-in-law told reporters.

- 'Give me back my son's life' -

Dozens of workers donning white protective gear were still cleaning up the crash site Friday, disinfecting the area after the bodies of victims were removed and breaking up plane wreckage for removal. 

So far 35 bodies have been identified while a team of dental experts was expected in Penghu to help with the identification process, official said.

At a funeral home near the crash site, grief-stricken relatives rounded on the chairman Lin, who had flown to Magong early Friday. He was on a business trip in the United States at the time of the crash.

"My son was only 27 years old, give me back my son's life," a woman wailed, as a silent Lin bowed to her several times. He repeatedly apologised to the relatives and promised to take full responsibility. 

The plane was trying to land for the second time after aborting the first attempt in thunder and heavy rain as Typhoon Matmo pounded Taiwan. Five people on the ground were injured in the crash.

Angry relatives have blamed the authorities for the worst air disaster in a decade, questioning why the plane was cleared to fly in bad weather.

Taiwanese officials have defended the decision to allow the flight to go ahead. Transport minister Yeh Kuang-shih has said that the meteorology data showed that aviation safety requirements were met when the plane was cleared to fly.

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