Taipei: The pilot of a doomed TransAsia plane, hailed as a hero for his actions in the final moments before a crash that killed 35 people, still had his hands on the controls when his body was found, media reported on Friday.
The pilot, identified by TransAsia as 42-year-old Liao Chien-tsung, has been praised by Taipei`s mayor for steering the plane between apartment blocks and commercial buildings before ditching the stalled aircraft in a river.
TransAsia Flight GE235 was carrying 58 passengers and crew when it lurched nose-up between buildings, clipped an overpass and a taxi with one of its wings and then crashed upside down into a shallow river after taking off on Wednesday.
The bodies of Liao and his co-pilot were retrieved from the almost-new turboprop ATR 72-600`s cockpit, with their legs badly broken, investigators said.
"They were still trying to save this aircraft until the last minute," Taiwanese media quoted unidentified prosecutors involved in the crash investigation as saying.
Media quoted city officials as saying the death toll would have been much worse if the plane had crashed into any of the buildings it narrowly missed. Fifteen people survived.
The voice and data recorders from the plane have been recovered and reveal that the plane lost thrust soon after take-off.
The plane took off from Taipei`s downtown Songshan airport and was bound for the Taiwan island of Kinmen. Among those on board were 31 tourists from China, mainly from the southwestern city of Xiamen.
Taiwan`s aviation regulator has ordered TransAsia and Uni Air, a subsidiary of EVA Airways Corp, to conduct engine and fuel system checks on the remaining 22 ATR aircraft they still operate.