PUBLIC STATEMENT ON THE 5371 ACCIDENT

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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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5 comments

  1. You wrote:
    – – –
    Many people have wondered why I did not immediately sell my photographs to the local press.
    – – –

    I, for one, totally appreciate and agree with the decision you made.

    I’m quite curious as to how the “local” press acted with regard to acquiring your photos. With this unique experience, can you give us a peek behind the curtain as to how the various stations may have (mis-)behaved? This might help others understand why they should follow your example in the future.

    Tim Maddog

  2. thank you Tim. that means a lot, hearing it from one of Taiwan’s most respected bloggers.

    i am not sure how the press reacted to be honest. this morning, about 2am i saw some of the 14 photos that the military released last night on a talk show. i would describe the reaction of the host and guests as “indifferent.” i have heard or seen nothing at all since.

    i have a meeting on Friday afternoon with an editor at TVBS. Stephanie Lin contacted me and said “we would like to interview you and hear your great story.” i have agreed to an “arranged interview” which means that i will have the list of questions that i will be asked to answer, before we begin the interview (Tim, you come from a talk radio background so you understand the necessity of this arrangement).

    i have some things to tell them about that they do not know.

    as far as media inaccuracies go, what i have heard is the following:

    1. “they” found the black box.

    ….but Titan told me personally that there is no flight recorder on that model aircraft.

    2. “the aging aircraft”; “age may be a factor.”

    yeah, and it may not. turns out that age had nothing to do with it.

    3. according to eyewitnesses “something” fell off the plane.

    nothing fell off the plane.

    human nature is the same pretty much everwhere. what is different is the values placed on restraint. in most places, the press police themselves from wildly speculating. but in Taiwan, speculation makes money.

    btw, i would love to do a radio interview on IRCT and take calls. i love talk radio and i’m good on the air. we’ll see how i do on TV though.

  3. Sir, it is very honorable of you to help with the investigation, and not cash in on your photos at first opportunity. As a Taiwanese living in the US, I’d say we need more people like you on both sides of the Pacific and everywhere else.

  4. thank you Mr. Michael. i would like to think (hope) that anyone else would have done the same.

    thanks for your comments – they are appreciated.

  5. Just a small correction, MJ:
    – – –
    Tim, you come from a talk radio background
    – – –

    I was a late-night DJ is all. Don’t want people to “misoverestimate” me on that detail.

    Tim Maddog

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