Nepal plane crash: At least 68 killed as Yeti Airlines aircraft comes down near city of Pokhara


Kathmandu, Nepal
CNN

At least 68 people were killed when a plane crashed near the central Nepalese city of Pokhara on Sunday, a government official said.

Seventy-two people — four crew members and 68 passengers — were on board when the ATR 72, owned by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, crashed, Yeti Airlines spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula said. Thirty-seven men, 25 women, three children and three infants were on board, Nepal’s civil aviation authority said.

Army spokesman Krishna Prasad Bhandar said the search was called off after dark and would resume on Monday morning. Bhandar said hundreds of first responders were still working to find the other four.

Nepal’s civil aviation authority said at least one infant was among the dead.

Sunday’s incident was the third deadliest in the Himalayan nation’s history, according to the Aviation Safety Network. July and September 1992 were the only incidents that resulted in many deaths. Those crashes involved planes operated by Thai Airways and Pakistan International and killed 113 and 167 people, respectively.

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Rescuers gather at the plane crash site in Pokhara.

Authorities say 72 people were on board when the plane went down.

The Civil Aviation Authority said 53 passengers and four crew members were Nepalis. There were also 15 foreign nationals on the plane: five from India, four from Russia and two from Korea. The rest were private citizens of Australia, Argentina, France and Ireland.

According to the country’s state media, The Rising Nepal, the plane was flying from the capital of Kathmandu to Pokhara, the country’s second most populous city. Pokhara is 129 km (80 mi) west of Kathmandu.

The plane touched down at Pokhara airport for the last time at 10:50 local time, 18 minutes after take off. Then he fell into the gorge of the nearby Seti River. First responders from the Nepal Army and various police departments have been deployed at the crash site and are conducting rescue operations, an official statement from the Civil Aviation Authority said.

Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said she was “deeply saddened by the sad and tragic accident”.

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“I sincerely appeal to the security personnel, all Nepali government agencies and the general public to initiate an effective rescue,” Dahal said on Twitter.

India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, said on Sunday he was “deeply saddened” to hear of the disaster and his thoughts were “with the affected families”.

Nepal’s Yeti Airlines has suspended all scheduled flights on Monday, January 16, in memory of the victims of the disaster.

Nepal, a Himalayan country home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest, has had its share of air accidents. Its weather can change suddenly, and airstrips are usually located in mountainous areas that are difficult to access.

In May last year, a Tara Air flight with 22 passengers on board crashed in the Himalayas at an altitude of about 14,500 feet. According to the Aviation Safety Network database, it was the country’s 19th plane crash in the past 10 years and 10 fatalities in the same period.

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The plane that crashed on Sunday was an ATR 72-500, a two-stage turbojet commonly used in the Asia-Pacific region, especially by low-cost airlines. Aircraft made by ATR, a joint venture between European aeronautics companies Airbus and Leonardo, usually have a good reputation.

But they have had accidents before. In July 2014 and February 2015, two ATR 72s of Taiwan’s now-defunct Transasia airline crashed in a fatal crash. The second prompted Taiwanese authorities to temporarily ground all ATR 72 aircraft registered on the island.

In total, various models of the ATR 72 were involved in 11 fatal incidents in Nepal before Sunday’s crash, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

ATR said in a statement on Sunday that it had been informed of the accident.

“Our first thoughts are with all those affected,” the statement said. “ATR professionals are fully engaged in supporting both the investigation and the client.”

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