Air Force Black Hawk helicopter carrying high-ranking officers crashes: 8 dead, 5 survivors

Eight people are dead, including the chief of armed forces in Taiwan, and other high ranking officers, after an Air Force Black Hawk helicopter crashed in a mountainous area of Wulai District, New Taipei City, this morning, January 2.

Ministry of Defense (MOD) spokesperson Shi Shunwen told reporters that Chief of the General Staff Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴) and his entourage were on their way to Dong’ao, Yilan when they lost contact. The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, carrying a total of 13 people, including the crew, took off from Songshan Base at 7:54 am, and lost contact at 8:07 am.

Search and rescue teams were dispatched from New Taipei City and Yilan County. A total of 121 personnel had to blaze a trail to the remote site.

A press officer of the Military News Agency, 35-year-old Chen Ying-zhu, who was sitting in the rear of the cabin, made contact via the military news agency Line group at around 10:00 am, saying that she was conscious, but her legs were trapped in the wreckage, and she was unable to move. Chen was able to transmit the coordinates of their location via the phone’s GPS signal.

Thick clouds and fog hampered the search, with search and rescue helicopters unable to reach the site near the border of New Taipei City and Yilan County.

The Central Disaster Response Center said that a ground-based rescue team had reached the site at 1:30 pm.

Working in dense fog and rough, trackless terrain, search and rescue personnel heard faint sounds of a whistle as they approached the vicinity, which helped lead them to the precise location of the crash site. The whistle was blown by in turn by two of the survivors, Lieutenant Colonel Zhou Xin-yi, and Major General Tsao Chin-ping.

President Tsai Ing-wen, on the campaign trail just nine days away from an election, cancelled her afternoon schedule, so that she could go to Yilan to meet with the search and rescue operation forward operations center to be briefed on search and rescue efforts.

search and rescue team at site of helicopter crash
Search and rescue team at site of helicopter crash. Picture: Yilan County Fire Bureau.

According to the information issued by the rescue unit at 14:26, and published in United Daily News, Chief of General Staff Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴) is confirmed dead, along with Political Warfare Bureau Deputy Director, Major General Yu Chin-wen (于親文), Office of the Deputy Chief of the General Staff for Intelligence under the defense ministry, Major General Hung Hung-chun (洪鴻鈞), Staff Major Huang Sheng-hang, Chief Inspector Han Zheng-hong, flight crew Chief Officer, Hsu Hong-bin, the helicopter pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Ye Jian-yi, and copilot Co-pilot Liu Zhen-fu.

The survivors are New Deputy Chief of Logistics of the General Staff Headquarters, Major General Huang Yu-min (黃佑民), Deputy Chief of the General Staff for Communications-Electronics and Information, Major General Tsao Chin-ping (曹進平), Chief of Accounting Office, Major General Liu Xiaotang, Lieutenant Colonel Zhou Xin-yi, and Military News Agency press officer, Chen Ying-chu (陳映竹).

It was reported that the helicopter belonged to the Air Force ambulance unit. The Black Hawk had a seating capacity of 15, divided into a front and a rear cabin. All five survivors were located in the rear compartment.

All 44 Black Hawks in Taiwan have been grounded for inspection while an investigation is carried out on the cause of the crash. Thirty of the aircraft belong to the military, while 14 are part of the Ministry of Interior’s National Airborne Service Corps.

President Tsai Ing-wen said that flags at all military bases will be flown at half-mast for the next three days. The president, deputy-presidential candidate William Lai, and Democratic Progressive Party candidates for the legislature have cancelled election campaign activities until January 4.

Candidates from the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomingtang/KMT), and People First Party, announced suspension of campaign activities for today, January 2, and tomorrow January 3, according to reports in Liberty Times Network.

map of crash site
Picture: Central News Agency.
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