MAGONG, Taiwan (AFP) - Taiwan's TransAsia Airways ran an apology on the front pages of five major newspapers on Friday, pledging to shoulder the "utmost responsibility" after 48 people died when one of its planes crashed in stormy weather.
It came as airline chairman Vincent Lin was confronted by grieving relatives as he was paying respects to the dead at the crash site in the Penghu islands after flying in on Friday morning.
The domestic flight from Kaohsiung in Taiwan's southwest was carrying 54 passengers and four crew when it plunged into houses in Magong in the Penghu islands Wednesday, leaving just 10 survivors, some of them badly injured. Two French medical students were among the dead.
"TransAsia and its staff express our deepest condolences for those who died on Flight GE222 and offer our apologies to the relatives and the injured," it said in a statement covering half the front page of four Taiwanese dailies and a business paper.
"TransAsia pledges to the deceased, the survivors and their relatives as well as Penghu residents who were injured to shoulder the utmost responsibility and make every effort to deal with the aftermath and provide the best compensation." TransAsia said it would fully collaborate with the authorities in the probe into the cause of the crash and will "reflect deeply and heed the lesson".
Dozens of workers donning white protective gear were still cleaning up the crash site Friday, disinfecting the area after the bodies of victims were removed and breaking up plane wreckage for removal.
- 'Give me back my son's life' -
At a funeral home near the crash site, grief-stricken relatives rounded on the chairman Lin, who had flown to Magong early Friday. He was on a business trip in the United States at the time of the crash.
"My son was only 27 years old, give me back my son's life," a woman wailed, as a silent Lin bowed to her several times.
"I wish everyone would give us a little more space to deal with the aftermath as this is not an easy matter to handle," Lin told reporters.
The ATR 72-500 propeller plane was trying to land for the second time after aborting the first attempt in thunder and heavy rain as Typhoon Matmo pounded Taiwan. Five people on the ground were injured in the crash.
Angry relatives have blamed the authorities for the worst air disaster in a decade, questioning why the plane was cleared to fly in bad weather.
Officials said on Thursday that the black boxes - which record cockpit voice and other in-flight data - that had been recovered at the crash site were sent back to Taipei for examination.
Initial results are expected in a week as authorities continue to investigate the cause of the crash, but aviation officials said a final result could take up to a year to determine.
Taiwanese officials have defended the decision to allow the flight to go ahead. Transport minister Yeh Kuang-shih has said that the meteorology data showed that aviation safety requirements were met when the plane was cleared to fly.
Two planes had landed safely at Magong airport shortly before the disaster, officials said.
TransAsia, Taiwan's first private airline, also runs international flights to China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam. It was planning to launch the island's first low-cost airline later this year.