23 passengers, including 2 foreigners, killed in Nepal air crash
Small plane with 21 people on board missing in Nepal.world Updated: Feb 24, 2016 17:03 IST
All 23 people on board a small plane were killed when it crashed into a forest in central Nepal on Wednesday, the country’s second air disaster in as many years.
The Twin Otter aircraft operated by the private Tara Air was reported missing at 8.10 am, 20 minutes after it took off from Pokhara, 200 km northwest of the capital Kathmandu.
The plane, bound for Jomsom in Mustang district bordering China, crashed into a hill in Myagdi district.
The dead included a Chinese and a Kuwaiti national, two infants and three crew members.
Authorities launched an operation to bring the bodies from the crash site at Tirkhe Dhunga to Pokhara. It takes four hours to trek to the crash site from the nearest village.
“It appears the aircraft broke into several pieces and burst into flames immediately after the crash. All the bodies are burnt beyond recognition,” Bishwa Raj Khadka, police chief of Myagdi, told the media.
The pilots last contacted Pokhara airport at 8.10 am, when there was no indication of anything wrong with the aircraft. According to a Tara Air statement, the weather at Pokhara and Jomsom was “favourable’.
A search operation involving three helicopters was launched as soon as the aircraft was reported missing. It was located nearly five hours later. It takes 20 minutes to from Pokhara to Jomsom.
The Pokhara-Jomsom route, which passes over the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountain ranges in the Himalayas, is one of the most difficult in Nepal, allowing only small aircraft to operate in the region.
In May 2013, seven people, including two Japanese tourists, sustained severe injuries when a Twin Otter aircraft crashed near Jomsom airport.
In May 2012, 15 people, including 13 Indians, were killed when a Dornier aircraft flying from Pokhara to Jomsom crashed into a hill near Jomsom airport.
Tara Air has a fleet of seven small aircraft which operate mainly in remote hilly areas. The airline was recognised by the International Air Transport Association just last month for adhering to global safety standards in its operations.
Wednesday’s accident is the first air crash in Nepal since another Twin Otter aircraft belonging to Nepal Airlines crashed in Arghakhanchi district in February 2014, killing all 18 people on board.
Since 2010, 111 people have died in seven crashes involving small aircraft. Wednesday’s crash took the toll 134.
The earlier accidents had resulted in the International Civil Aviation Organisation putting Nepal’s aviation sector in the “significant safety concern” (SSC) category in 2013. The move prompted the European Union to ban all airline operators from Nepal from flying to any EU country.