Skip to main content

Taiwanese top military official Shen Yi-ming, seen in March, was aboard a helicopter that crashed in the mountains outside of Taipei on Thursday.

The Associated Press

Taiwan’s top military official was among eight people killed in an air force helicopter crash in mountainous terrain outside Taipei on Thursday, the defence ministry said. Five others survived.

As chief of the general staff, Gen. Shen Yi-ming was responsible for overseeing the self-governing island’s defence against China, which threatens to use military force if necessary to annex what it considers part of its territory.

The helicopter was flying from Taipei to the nearby city of Yilan for a New Year’s activity when it crashed. The victims included other senior military officials and the two pilots.

Story continues below advertisement

The UH-60M Blackhawk with 13 people on board dropped from the radar screen 10 minutes after takeoff from Songshan air force base around 7:50 a.m., Taiwan’s defence ministry said. It went down in the mountainous, heavily forested Wulai area southeast of the capital.

Shen, 63, had taken over as chief of the general staff in July after serving as commander of Taiwan’s air force, which is undergoing a substantial upgrade with the arrival of the most advanced version of the U.S. F-16V fighter.

Alexander Huang, a strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan who had known Shen for a decade, said he had stood out as a pilot and an officer.

“He was very calm and very stable and unlike other army guys he was always smiling, so he got a specific leadership style that also made him a popular leader in the entire military,” Huang said.

It will likely be months before the cause of the crash is known, but the pilots appeared to have been highly experienced.

“Of course, reasonable people would think in the direction of mechanical failure or maintenance problem, but without proof you can’t say anything,” Huang said.

A special government committee will look into the cause of the crash, a defence ministry statement said.

Story continues below advertisement

Taiwan’s military has operated Blackhawk helicopters for decades and completed a sale for another 60 UH-Ms from the U.S. for $3.1 billion in 2010. The one that crashed was a model dedicated to search and rescue and had been delivered in 2018, according to the ministry.

The loss of Shen and other high-ranking officials will require a rapid reshuffle of positions, but should have minimal effect on Taiwan’s Jan. 11 elections for president and lawmakers, said Andrew Yang, a former deputy defence minister who said Shen was highly respected throughout his career.

“I don’t think the crash will have a strong impact over the elections but certainly it will affect the armed forces because so many senior officers passed away as a result of this crash,” he said.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party said in a statement on social media that all its public campaign events from now through Saturday would be cancelled.

“The loss of pillars of our country make us feel endless sorrow,” the statement read.

The party has been strongly critical of China’s attempts to increase economic, military and diplomatic pressure. Incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen appears on track to win a second term over her more pro-China opponent, Han Kuo-yu of the main opposition Nationalists.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies