Confirmed: Taiwanese Top Military Official Killed in Helicopter Crash

The chief of the general staff, Shen Yi-ming, was among eight senior officers - including three major-generals - who died when their Black Hawk helicopter smashed into mountains near Taipei.

Five people survived Thursday's crash and were rescued, according to local media reports.

As chief of the general staff, Shen is responsible for overseeing the island's defence against China, which threatens to use military force to annex what it considers it own territory.

"Today is a day that we are deeply saddened because several of our most distinguished generals died while on official duty", Tsai said at a briefing for the incident. She also asked Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa to ensure stable defense operations in the wake of the crash.

Military personnel and emergency workers searching for the aircraft found it had been badly damaged.

The helicopter was heading for a military base in the island's northeast.

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President Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking a second term, will suspend all campaigning through Saturday to focus on her role as Taiwan's commander-in-chief, her campaign office said.

The crash comes days before Taiwanese voters head to the polls to elect their president on January 11.

Authorities had launched a rescue mission after aviation authorities lost contact with the chopper on Thursday morning.

An air force official said some on board were "trapped under fragments of the helicopter" without elaborating. "We will do everything we can to help their families in this time of loss & investigate the cause of the crash".

The de facto USA embassy in Taiwan expressed its condolences, saying it stood ready to assist in the aftermath of the tragedy, but without detailing what such help might entail.

The ministry has dispatched ground troops and rescue helicopters to the crash site in northeastern Taiwan.

  • Sonia Alvarado