Taipei: From the start of the flight in Taiwan's capital, survivor Huang Jin-sun suspected trouble.
"There was some sound next to me. It did not feel right shortly after takeoff. The engine did not feel right," the 72-year-old man told ETTV television yesterday from his hospital bed.
Huang was one of 15 people who survived when the TransAsia Airways turboprop carrying 58 people crashed Wednesday into a river minutes after taking off in Taipei. At least 32 people died and 11 are missing.
Moments before the plane banked sharply and crashed, one of its pilots told the control tower, "Mayday, mayday, engine flameout," according to an aviation official who asked not to be identified.
"Engine flameout" refers to flames being extinguished in the combustion chamber of the engine, so that it shuts down and no longer drives the propeller. Causes could include a lack of fuel or being struck by volcanic ash, a bird or some other object. "Mayday" is an international distress call.
The airline and the Taiwan Civil Aeronautical Administration have declined to speculate on the cause of the crash, the latest in a series of disasters befalling Asian airlines.
The ATR 72-600 plane, less than a year old, had one of its engines replaced by Pratt & Whitney Canada last April before it went into service because of a glitch with the original engine, the airline said.
The plane's black boxes were recovered overnight. Video images of Flight 235's final moments in the air captured on car dashboard cameras appear to show the left engine's propeller at standstill as the aircraft turned sharply, its wings becoming vertical and clipping a highway bridge before plunging into the Keelung River in Taipei.
Huang said he helped four passengers unbuckle their seatbelts after the plane crashed and began sinking in the water.