Helicopter crash leaves three on board dead (update)

Taipei, Oct. 16 (CNA) A Sunrise Airlines BK117 helicopter crashed in a mountainous area in central Taiwan Wednesday morning, leaving the three people on board dead, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) has confirmed. The helicopter crashed 500 meters east of the Central Weather Bureau's observation station on Yushan, also known as Jade Mountain, as it was transporting supplies to the station, the airline said. The deceased were identified as pilot Chang Kuo-kang, co-pilot Lin Yi-chi and bureau worker Chen Wen-chung. According to the CAA, the helicopter took off from Taipei Songshan Airport at 6:38 a.m. and landed at Yushan's Tataka at 7:42 a.m. to pick up three bureau employees heading to work at the station along with supplies. Because the helicopter could only carry one worker at a time, it had to make three trips between Tataka and the observation station on the mountain's north face. The first run from Tataka to the station and back, which left Tataka at 7:53 a.m., went off smoothly. But the helicopter never made it back to the observation station after taking off from Tataka on its second run at about 8:05 a.m. When the helicopter did not report back to the airline within about 10 minutes later that it had reached the station, the airline knew something was wrong. The National Search and Rescue Command Center sent rescue personnel at 8:32 a.m., and it reported to the CAA at 9:20 a.m. that all three on board were killed in a crash. The cause of the accident was unclear as of Wednesday afternoon, and the Aviation Safety Council said it was planning to send an investigation unit to the area. The airline said the latest safety check of the 23-year-old helicopter 13 days ago found everything to be normal. Chang started to work for Sunrise in 1999 and had 3,181 hours of flying experience, while Lin started in 2009 and had 2,832 hours in the air. (By Lee Hsin-Yin)