As chief of the general staff, Gen. Shen Yi-ming was responsible for overseeing the island's defense against China, which threatens to use military force to annex what it considers it own territory. The helicopter was flying from Taipei to the northeastern city of Ilan for a new year's activity when it crashed.
"I didn't know what was happening," passenger Gabrielle Guzy said. "My sister said she thought it was lights but I knew it was fire from the engine. I kept reassuring myself we'd be OK because we had only been in the air for a minute."
State news agency IRNA said the jet went down at 9am (0530 GMT) near Mount Sabalan, in the Lesser Caucasus range, and was a MiG-29 on a test flight after being overhauled.
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