My wife and I convey our deepest sympathies to the families and colleagues of the injured and killed in this tragic accident. It is our sincere hope that my photographs and eyewitness testimony will provide information leading to the discovery of the cause, and prevention of such future accidents.
When a tragic accident such as this occurs, people have only one question in their minds: “Why did this happen?” People want to know the answer to this question, and when those answers are not forthcoming, the natural result is speculation and contention. Thus, rumors abound. This is human nature.
When I took the photographs of 5371, I had no idea at the time that what I was doing would have any historical or scientific interest. However, I quickly learned that my photographs were perhaps the only record of those crucial last seconds before the crash. I knew that my close proximity to the aircraft at the time the photographs were taken would be an asset to official investigators. Within the space of a few minutes, the innocuous act of photographing a military exercise had now become a matter of national concern. Many people have wondered why I did not immediately sell my photographs to the local press. Certainly their commercial value would be extremely high.
The answer is simple: I did not want to contribute to the rumors and speculation – they solve nothing and are counterproductive. But, also, Taiwan is my home now. This accident deeply affected me too, and I will never be the same for it. This highly publicized accident plunged our entire nation into a state of shock and confusion. Having my photographs splashed on television screens and newspapers across the Republic without any official explanation or reassurance would have been irresponsible. My wife and I agreed that personal profit would be unacceptable.
Unquestionably, the only choice was to provide any and all information that I had to the authorities as soon as possible. After review, they specifically asked me to not publish my photographs until the official investigation had been concluded. I respectfully complied with their request.
I was an eyewitness to 13 seconds of 5371’s final flight. What I saw were 2 heroes. They did not eject, thereby leaving the doomed aircraft to rain destruction and certain death on our neighborhood. No, when faced with a choice, they did what was necessary to protect the lives of their fellow Citizens of Taiwan. With their last breath, they struggled to crash land in the only acceptable place available to them – the nearest military base. I understand from discussions with the investigators, that they made it inside the base wall by only 5 meters.
I would like to thank the officers and engineers of the Taiwan Air Force for honoring me by including me in their investigation. Every time I drive down that road past the military base in our neighborhood, I will remember….
Please join me in saluting the heroes of 5371 – “They gave their lives to save ours.”
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