Nepal’s Pokhara (AP) — At least 68 of the 72 persons on board were killed when a plane conducting a 27-minute journey to a vacation destination in Nepal crashed into a canyon on Sunday while attempting to land at a recently built airfield. The country’s deadliest airplane crash in three decades was witnessed by at least one eyewitness who heard calls for assistance coming from within the burning wreck.
Numerous spectators gathered near the accident site in the tourist town of Pokhara after nightfall as rescuers searched the debris at the edge of the cliff and in the ravine below. The search for the four missing people was put on hold overnight, and it was scheduled to start up again on Monday.
Bishnu Tiwari, a local resident who hurried to the crash site near the Seti River to assist in the hunt for remains, claimed that heavy smoke and a blazing fire hindered rescue attempts.
We were unable to approach the wreckage because the flames were so intense. The flames and smoke prevented us from assisting the man I overheard pleading for help, Tiwari added.
According to Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority, the accident’s cause was not immediately apparent.
From his home’s terrace, a witness claimed to have observed the airplane rapidly spinning in the air as it descended to ground. Finally, the plane crashed into the gorge to its left, according to Gaurav Gurung.
According to the aviation authority, the plane crashed at 10:50 a.m. after making touch with the airport from close to Seti Gorge.
The twin-engine ATR 72 plane was traveling from Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, to Pokhara, which is situated 200 kilometers (125 miles) to the west. According to a statement from Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority, the aircraft was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 international nationals, as well as four staff members. Five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina, and France were among the outsiders.
Nearly a mile (1.6 kilometers) from Pokhara International Airport, the accident scene was visible in pictures and videos posted by Twitter. The fuselage of the airplane was broken into several pieces, which were dispersed around the gorge.
Firefighters transported burned-out bodies to hospitals where grieving family members had gathered. Family members were brought into the airport in Kathmandu looking upset as they did so, and as they waited for information, they occasionally got into intense arguments with staff members.
Senior administrative officer for the Kaski district, Tek Bahadur K. C., predicted that more bodies would be discovered by rescuers at the bottom of the gorge.
After the crash, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal hurried to Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport and convened a panel to look into the incident.
“It was a horrible event. The entire Nepali army and police have been sent in to help,” he said.
The foreign ministry of South Korea stated in a statement that it has dispatched staff to the scene and is still working to ascertain the fate of two South Korean passengers. Four Russian people who were on board the plane died, according to Alexei Novikov, the Russian ambassador to Nepal.
Argentine passenger aboard the flight was Jannet Palavecino from his area, according to tweets from Omar Gutiérrez, the governor of Neuquen province in Argentina.
According to Palavecino’s Facebook page, she managed the Hotel Suizo in Neuquen city.
She identified herself as a travel and adventure tourism enthusiast on the page. “I have a deep love for the mountains! cycling whilst on my bike. I adore the countryside and my garden. I enjoy painting!” she proclaimed.
Numerous images on her Instagram show her in the mountains.
The Annapurna Circuit, a well-liked trekking circuit in the Himalayas, can be reached from Pokhara. Only two weeks ago did the city’s brand-new international airport open for business.
Airlines all over the world have employed the ATR 72 type of aircraft for brief regional flights. The aircraft model was introduced in the late 1980s by a French and Italian partnership, and over the years, it has been in a number of fatal incidents.
48 people were killed when a TransAsia ATR 72-500 plane crashed in July 2014 as it attempted to land on the picturesque Penghu archipelago between Taiwan and China. In February 2015, an ATR 72-600 being flown by the same Taiwanese airline crashed shortly after takeoff in Taipei after one of its engines broke down and the second one was inadvertently turned off.
43 people were killed in the 2015 crash, which was seen in dramatic video showing the plane slamming into a taxi as it spiraled out of control. The crash led authorities to temporarily ground all ATR 72s with Taiwanese registrations. In 2016, TransAsia terminated all operations, and the company later closed.
In a tweet, ATR revealed that the aircraft that crashed on Sunday was an ATR 72-500. The aircraft was 15 years old and “fitted with an obsolete transponder with poor data,” per flightradar24.com tracking information. According to data on Airfleets.net, it was formerly operated by Thailand’s Nok Air and India’s Kingfisher Airlines before Yeti took over in 2019.
Eight of the world’s fourteen highest mountains, including Mount Everest, are located in Nepal, which has a history of plane crashes. Since 1946, 42 fatal plane crashes have occurred in Nepal, according to the Aviation Safety database maintained by the Flight Safety Foundation.
The accident on Sunday is the deadliest in Nepal since 1992, when a Pakistan International Airlines plane crashed into a hill while attempting to land in Kathmandu, killing all 167 people on board.
Since 2013, the European Union has prohibited Nepali airlines from operating flights into the 27-nation bloc, citing lax safety regulations. Improvements in Nepal’s aviation industry were noted by the International Civil Aviation Organization in 2017, but the EU is still pressing for administrative changes.