A couple and their toddler who survived the crash of a TransAsia Airways plane in Taiwan changed seats just before the plane took off - a move which may have saved their lives.

At least 32 people died when flight GE235 crashed into an elevated highway shortly after taking off from the capital, Taipei. The plane came to rest upside-down in a river. An emergency exit was above the water line, allowing some passengers to escape as rescuers arrived on the scene.

The survivors included three members of the Lin family, including a two-year-old boy who was found floating in the water "with [his] face turning pale and lips turning purple," according to United Daily.

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Crash survivor: Engine 'did not feel right'

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The newspaper reported that the father had asked to switch from the left to the right side because he was concerned about a noise coming from the left wing. In the crash, the left wing clipped the highway and the plane cartwheeled into the river. Footage captured on a dashboard camera suggested that the pilots may have been trying to avoid striking an apartment block just before the crash.

Emergency personnel sort through luggage recovered at the site of the plane crash in Taipei, Taiwan. Photo / AP
Emergency personnel sort through luggage recovered at the site of the plane crash in Taipei, Taiwan. Photo / AP

The ATR72 propellor aircraft was bound for Kinmen, just off the coast of mainland China. Of the 58 people on board, 15 were rescued, while 11 are still missing.

The captain, Jianzong Liao, 42, and the first officer Zizhong Liu, 45, both died in the crash. The final words from the flight deck were "TransAsia 235, Mayday, Mayday, engine flameout."

The air traffic controller answered: "TransAsia 235, please try again. Contact Taipei Approach on 119-decimal-7." There was no response from the flight deck.

A flameout is where an engine loses power, with possible causes ranging from a bird strike to fuel starvation.

Investigators are focusing on the chain of events that led to the aircraft losing speed and stalling.

The main fuselage from TransAsia Airways Flight 235 is hoisted away in Taipei, Taiwan. Photo / AP
The main fuselage from TransAsia Airways Flight 235 is hoisted away in Taipei, Taiwan. Photo / AP
Emergency personnel remove the body of a passenger from the crash site. Photo / AP
Emergency personnel remove the body of a passenger from the crash site. Photo / AP

Julien Evans, a former training captain and author of How Airliners Fly, said pilots are trained to cope with an engine failure at the worst possible moment - immediately after V1, the decisive speed after which take-off must go ahead. "Usually the take-off performance available from the aircraft is well in excess of that required, even allowing for engine failure," said Mr Evans. "When this is the case, we can set the engines to less than maximum thrust and still achieve normal safety margins. In the event of engine failure after V1 it is standard procedure to increase power on the good engine to improve climb performance, but not if the pilot has directional control problems."

The cockpit voice recorder and flight date recorder have been retrieved from the wreckage.

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Emergency personnel sort through luggage recovered at the site of the plane crash in Taipei, Taiwan. Photo / AP
Emergency personnel sort through luggage recovered at the site of the plane crash in Taipei, Taiwan. Photo / AP

Shares in TransAsia Airways Corporation ended the day 15 per cent down since Monday.

The crash of GE235 was the second fatal accident that the airline has suffered in less than a year. Todd Curtis, founder of the aviation safety database, AirSafe.com, told The Independent that two or more crashes involving the same airline within a short space of time has happened almost once a year on average. "I found at least 37 other cases since 1970 where an airline had sequences of two or more fatal passenger events with less than a year separating the events," Mr Curtis said.

- UK Independent