Helicopter crash kills Taiwan’s top military officer and 7 others

By Associated Press Reporter

Taiwan’s top military official has died in an air force helicopter crash that killed seven other people.

The country’s defence ministry said five people survived the crash in mountains outside its capital city Taipei.

As chief of the general staff, General Shen Yi-ming was responsible for overseeing the island’s defence against China, which threatens to use military force to annex what it considers it own territory.

The helicopter was flying from Taipei to the north-eastern city of Ilan when it crashed.

Emergency teams at the crash site (Yilan Fire Bureau via AP)

According to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence, 13 people were on the UH-60M Blackhawk helicopter, which took off shortly after 7.50am from Taipei’s Songshan air force base on its way to a base in Yilan county on the east coast.

Just over 10 minutes later, it dropped from the radar screen and went down in the mountainous, heavily forested Wulai area south-east of the capital.

Shen, 63, had taken over as chief of the general staff in July after serving as commander of Taiwan’s air force, which is undergoing a substantial upgrade with the arrival of the most advanced version of the US F-16V fighter.

Alexander Huang, a strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan who had known Shen for a decade, said he had stood out as a pilot and an officer.

“He was very calm and very stable and unlike other army guys he was always smiling, so he got a specific leadership style that also made him a popular leader in the entire military,” Mr Huang said.

It will likely be months before the cause of the crash is known, but the pilots, both of whom were killed, appeared to have been highly experienced.

“Of course, reasonable people would think in the direction of mechanical failure or maintenance problem, but without proof you can’t say anything,” Mr Huang said.