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Nepal plane crash: All 14 on board feared dead

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 12:21:49 PM, Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu: The festival of Raksha Bandhan turned into stark tragedy in Nepal Tuesday as all 14 people aboard a private aircraft carrying tourists were feared to have been killed following a crash near Kathmandu.

Gyan Kumar Thokuwa, an eyewitness in Shikharpur village where the crash occurred around 7.30 a.m., said the aircraft was in flames when it crashlanded near a school, breaking into pieces and scattering bodies and belongings of the passengers.

“The site is difficult to reach due to incessant rain last night,” Thokuwa told private television station ABC.

“Villagers were guarding the bodies as rescue teams were held up by bad weather and fog. Passports and other papers were found scattered along with plane parts.”

The flight by domestic airline Agni Air was carrying 11 passengers, including six foreigners, and three crew members.

Of the six tourists, one had been preliminarily identified as a Japanese in his mid-20s, four others were from the US and the sixth from Ireland.

The three crew members have been identified as Captain Laxmi Prakash Vikram Shah, co-pilot Sophia Singh and air hostess Lucky Sherpa.

Three of the five Nepali passengers were identified as Pemba Sherpa, I. Rizal and Om.

Police spokesperson Bigyan Raj Sharma said the aircraft was headed for Lukla in northern Nepal, considered the gateway to Mt Everest.

However, bad weather due to a raging monsoon prevented the aircraft from landing at the airport named after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, forcing it to come back towards Kathmandu.

Nepal’s official media said the pilot had reported that the engine generator had failed.

On the way to the capital, the aircraft crashed in Makwanpur district, close to Kathmandu valley.

But despite the closeness to the capital, lack of motorable roads and inclement weather prevented rescue teams, including an army helicopter carrying doctors, from reaching the crash site for hours.

This is the second major air disaster suffered by Nepal in two years. Bad weather, pilot error, difficult terrain, bad local airports and technical failures are held to be the main causes.

Most of the crashes occur in monsoon.

In 2008, a domestic airline crashed in the Everest region, killing 24 people, including 12 German tourists, a Nepali minister and his wife and noted conservationists.

The crash comes at a time Nepal is celebrating the entry of a Nepali airline to Bhutan, the first international airline to start flights to the Buddhist kingdom.

It also clouds efforts to celebrate 2011 as tourism year targeted to bring in 1 million tourists.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at





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