Ex couple from India, kids on board Nepal plane were on court-ordered holiday

Updated on May 30, 2022 03:29 AM IST

The plane, a De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter, took off from Pokhara at 10.14 am but lost contact with the control tower five minutes before it was due to land in Jomsom, a popular tourist town in central Nepal.

Family members and relatives of passengers on board the Twin Otter aircraft operated by Tara Air, weep outside the airport in Pokhara on Sunday, May 29, 2022. (AFP)
Family members and relatives of passengers on board the Twin Otter aircraft operated by Tara Air, weep outside the airport in Pokhara on Sunday, May 29, 2022. (AFP)
By, Kathmandu

Vaibhavi Tripathi and her former husband Ashok Tripathi, who along with their two children were on board a plane that went missing in Nepal on Sunday, were directed by a family court to go on a family holiday every year after their divorce, police officials said.

The plane, a De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter, took off from Pokhara at 10.14 am but lost contact with the control tower five minutes before it was due to land in Jomsom, a popular tourist town in central Nepal. Rescuers called off their hunt to locate the plane late on Sunday due to unfavourable weather conditions.

“Vaibhavi and her ex-husband Ashok were mandated by a family court to go on a vacation of 10 days with their children every year after their divorce. After we received the information, we went to her residence. Vaibhavi works in a Bandra-based company and looks after her mother, who has not been well for a long time. As she went out on annual holiday with the family, her sister came over to take care of the mother for a while,” said senior police inspector Uttam Sonawane of Thane’s Kapurbawdi police station.

Earlier in the day, rescuers unsuccessfully scoured a remote mountainous area in western Nepal by helicopter and on foot all day Sunday, as weather hampered search flights.

A Nepal Army official told a news agency that ground troops would stop at a local school for the night and be joined by additional forces in the morning.

“We will also resume the search operation from our helicopter tomorrow morning once the weather is clear,” he said.

A spokesman for Pokhara Airport told a news agency that three helicopters had had to turn back. “Right now, we cannot say where exactly where the aircraft is and in what condition,” he said. “There has not been any reporting or information from locals about a big fire or other such indications.”

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) said a team was headed to the area where the aircraft was last spotted.

“As the search operations carried out in possible sites have been hindered due to hilly terrain and bad weather, the status of the aircraft is still unknown,” the CAAN statement said.

“However, the Rescue Coordination Centre remains open for 24 hours and the search operations will be intensified through the air as well as land routes,” it added. “Tara Air flight 9NAET that took off from Pokhara at 9.55 AM today with 22 people onboard, including 4 Indians, has gone missing. Search and rescue operation is on. The embassy is in touch with their family,” it said. Chief District Officer of Myagdi Chiranjibi Rana said that local residents reported that the plane made two circles at Khaibang and headed to Kiti Danda near Lete Pass (2,500m).

“A team of police has been mobilised at the site. The site is a 12-hour walk from Lete,” he said. “There are no human settlements in the area where locals last spotted the plane.” A helicopter that flew from Pokhara in search of the missing aircraft earlier in the day returned without any success due to bad weather.

(With inputs from Anamika Gharat, and agencies)

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