5371 Update

Photos by Hui-chen and MJ Klein

UPDATE: May 15, 2007. On this day, just 5 days from the 2nd anniversary of our blog, this story has generated so much traffic that I have installed a World Map counter so everyone can see where the readers are. You may click on the map for a detailed view if you like.

World Visitor Map
World Visitor Map

Also, please feel free to check our sitemeter statistics here. Hui-chen and I appreciate the positive comments posted to our blog and emailed to us. We were deeply saddened by these events that have touched our lives. We appreciate all our readers who have spread word of this story to others and have thus honored The Heroes of 5371. I look forward to being able to give you the rest of the story very soon. My wife and I convey our deepest sympathies to the families and colleagues of the injured and killed in this tragic accident.

Yesterday, Hui-chen and I were in Taipei, at Shannon’s and then later, the Taiwan Beer Bar. I got no less than 4 phone calls from a Taiwan Air Force officer, asking questions about the photographs I took last Friday of the final moments of 5371 before it crashed.

Today, Sunday, May 13, 2007, several officers and engineers from the Air Force visited our home. They told me that my photos were the only photos available that showed what happened to the aircraft just before it crashed, and that the information I provided them was crucial to their investigation.

I have been asked by the lead investigator to hold off from publishing my photos for awhile. He is concerned that the local Taiwanese press may steal them off my flickr.com site. I just laughed it off, saying that we could sue them and give the money to the families of the deceased and injured. The press here are less than exemplary, let’s say.

So, I have decided to wait for a week before I publish the actual report along with the photos of the doomed jet. In the meantime I want to leave you with this short preview of the upcoming article. It may be necessary to wait a little longer than 1 week, so please accept my apologies.

Often, us foreigners complain that Taiwanese sometimes don’t take things seriously enough. In this case I want to make it clear that these officers and engineers viewed my photographic work with all the weight and scrutiny that I could have ever imagined. At the beginning, when I originally tried to contact the proper authorities through Linda Arrigo, she told me that her contacts basically said that they had enough photographs and didn’t need any more. No one realized that I was approximately 700 to 800 meters from the aircraft (determined today) and shooting with a 300mm lens. My photos show the positions of the aircraft’s control surfaces – essential information when trying to unravel such a complex puzzle. Later in the day, the Air Force came to my home and took a CD of the photos.

Not only did they keep me informed about what they were doing – they actually included me in their investigative work. That would never have happened in the USA! My years of experience in field engineering really paid off today.

The gentleman in the white shirt is Mr. Dong (nickname “Domain”), the lead investigator. The gentleman in the black shirt is a fighter pilot, and trainer stationed at the Hsinchu airbase. His English nickname is “Titan” and he a giant of a man – fully as tall as I am at 190+cm. In the background you can see 2 engineers sending down a measuring tape to measure the height of our building. Domain and Titan are checking out the positions of stationary points of reference seen in my photos. These points of reference were in the foreground with the jet in the background, and are extremely useful for determining distance, altitude and velocity. Titan is holding a print out of all the photos, for reference.

The process began with an interview. I was questioned about what I saw, where I was standing, what I heard, my thoughts and views – all of it. These men were super-professional and genuinely appreciative of my help. Notice that I am holding my GPS in my left hand. Once I explained a bit about my background, they decided to use me as part of the team.

Here I am taking a bearing on one of the stationary points of reference. My GPS has a fluxgate compass and a sighting feature. I am holding the GPS high in order to be as accurate as possible, while still holding the unit itself level. They used my sightings in their data. In fact, they used all the GPS data that I provided them.

Air Force photographer shooting a reverse angle photo from a stationary reference point back towards the point of origin (where I was standing when I took the photos).

One last thing I want to mention, is that I got the definition of what constitutes a legal, and illegal photo in the eyes of the military and Taiwan government, right from an Air Force officer. All of my photos are 100% legal and I am free to publish them. The military is concerned however, that the press would pick up my photos and make up some story about what happened before the official investigation releases its findings. I respect their concern and therefore must abide by their request to wait.

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  1. Thanks for your character and integrity Mike! We’re glad that you didn’t cash in on your photos (like some cheap conspiracy buffs might easily have done for a quick buck,) but rather helped out with the government. Thanks and we hope you enjoy your stay in Taiwan! =) (I live in Hsinchu.) Foreigners like you are what give other countries a good name.

  2. i appreciate your kind words. honestly, i view it as my duty and nothing special. Taiwan is my home now and this is some small thing that i can do to help out. the officers and engineers were fantastic people and great to work with. except for the gravity of the investigation it would have been a fun experience working with those guys.

  3. Thank you for doing the right thing and choosing to help with the investigation, rather than releasing the photos to the press right now for them to tear apart with the usual rampant speculation. You’ve definitely picked up another regular reader here. Much respect to you sir!

  4. thank you Mr. Hai. the last thing that i would want is for the press to just make something up – i hate that. i felt bad enough after learning that i had just photographed the doomed aircraft. at the time, was just one of many that passed by my home that morning; that one just just a lot closer. when my wife Hui-chen told me that she heard the number designation: 5371, it was a very emotional moment for me. i broke down. i felt so bad for those familes…. i hate the way that the TW press persecutes the innocent sufferers…. i did not, and do not want to add anything to that! i see nothing wrong with people who sell photos, and i myself do professional photographic work of course. but this wasn’t about a chance to cash in. this was about setting the story straight. after this is over i am going to publish the photos on my flickr.com account, for free, for everyone to understand what really happened. thanks for your kind comments

  5. I’m sure you must realize by now that your traffic has exploded. Did the papers link to you?

  6. yes, it seems that my traffic is up (putting it mildly – 2,000 hits in a few hours). i don’t know if the papers are linking to me or not, i didn’t check, lol. i haven’t given them the money shots yet, so i doubt it.

    thanks Roy.

  7. I admire you for the sensitive way you have written about this. If only the Taiwanese media would learn from your example!!!

  8. chcyang, you bring up an excellent point – one that i will address in my final report on the entire incident that i will publish by the end of the week. i can certainly understand your point, and no one would take it the wrong way, i’m sure. i guess its a case where “you had to be there” to understand.

    the 2 officers and engineers arrived at my home wearing casual clothing, but the subordinates were properly uniformed, minus jackets (it was very hot that afternoon). once we got on the roof to take a look at the Point of Origin of the photos, Mr. Titan asked the young men to remove their shirts to draw less attention to themselves (but their trousers and shoes were all regulation). you must understand that a group of (obviously) Taiwanese military men walking around taking physical measurements of building and lots of photographs with a strange foreigner would have caused concern among the neighbors. indeed, many people in my neighborhood took notice of what we were doing. some people asked us what we were doing. it made for some interesting conversations that evening. i’m sure that by this time, some people have put 2 + 2 together since 14 of the photos have been aired on TV.

    your observations about Domain and Titan are dead-on. Titan led by actually leading, not by directing. the fact that on several occasions he allowed me to butt in and give my opinion – to the point of even telling his men what to do – is a remarkable testament to his leadership abilities.

    you will be proud to know that there was no “chickenshit” on that afternoon. absolutely none. the team was 100% professional, and if anything, overly polite.

    Titan is one hell of a man. i admire him a great deal. i would like to call him my friend.

    i feel emotionally exhausted. give me a few days and you will be able to read my account; what i heard, saw and felt about everything, beginning with the first moment i saw the doomed jet, through the investigation, and to the conclusion of the matter.

  9. A minor issue I would like to comment. I am a bid surprised to see the loosened dress code of the air force team in civies. Do not get me wrong: I have had my fair share of chicken-shit-and-prick superior officers in Taiwan Army in 1993-1995. I really think that people in armed forces should not spend time on what they should wear but I do have a hard time to link “T-shirt” or “Tank shirt” to professionals.

    Nevertheless, I could see that “Domain” is a nice-and-serious CO who means business and “Titan” is really “the man” born to command even in his black T-shirt.

  10. Here is my salute to you, sir.
    Very much appreciate your kindness and help-out! I strongly believe the photos you incidentally took may give sad families some comfortness, for they can see the 2 brave pilots were looksing at you and wished you can tell all of us the ultimate sacrifice they decided to face is worthy. (syang@Hsinchu)

  11. syang, thanks for your kind words. of course, the pilots weren’t really looking at me, but (as you will see in a few day) you can see the face of the co-pilot clearly looking towards the camera. when i look at the photos i feel a responsibility, all the more so because they are looking in my direction.

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