Liao Jianzong and Liu Zizhong: TransAsia Airways flight GE235 pilots

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TransAsia flight GE235, with 58 passengers and 5 crew members on board, of Chinese and Taiwanese nationality, crashed into Taiwan’s Keelung river shortly after takeoff from Taipei Songshan airport on Tuesday.

The plane was being flown by pilot Liao Jianzong and copilot Liu Zizhong, and a third trainee pilot called Hong Binzhong, by Taiwan’s CAA. Liao Jianzong,42, had nearly 5,000 hours of flight experience, and his co-pilot, Liuzi Zhong, 45, had almost 7,000 hours.

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More than half of the 53 passengers and five crewmembers aboard TransAsia Airways Flight GE235 en route to the outlying Taiwan-controlled Kinmen islands were from China.

The final communication from the pilots to air traffic control was “mayday, mayday, engine flame out”, according to the BBC, citing a recording played on local media.

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So far the death toll has reach 25 people dead. Survivors have been pulled from the wreckage of the plane, as more than 1,000 rescue personnel work to try and save people trapped in the aircraft which clipped its wing on a bridge ultimately plunging into the river.

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The fate of pilot Liao Jianzong was not immediately known. Local reports say he was born into a poor family, his parents sold clothes at a street stall. After serving in the army, Liao studied English diligently to land a commercial airline job. The former military pilot and the father of a nine-year-old boy was praised by experts saying his actions might have contributed to the high number of survivors.