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

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 Sunday when a plane crashed near the city of Pokhara in central Nepal, a government official said, the country’s deadliest plane crash in more than 30 years.

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

Search efforts were called off after dark, army spokesman Krishna Prasad Bhandar said, and will resume on Monday morning. Hundreds of first responders were still working to find the four remaining individuals before then, Bhandar said.

At least one infant was among the dead, according to Nepal’s civil aviation authority.

Sunday’s incident was the third deadliest crash in the Himalayan nation’s history, according to data from the Aviation Safety Network. The only incidents in which more people were killed occurred in July and September 1992. These crashes involved planes operated by Thai Airways and Pakistan International and left 113 and 167 dead, respectively.

The civil aviation authority said 53 of the passengers and all four crew members were Nepalese. There were also 15 foreign nationals on the plane: five were Indians, four were Russians and two were Koreans. The rest were individual citizens of Australia, Argentina, France and Ireland.

The plane had flown from the capital Kathmandu to Pokhara, the country’s second most populous city, the country’s state media The Rising Nepal reported. Pokahara is located about 129 kilometers (80 miles) west of Kathmandu.

The plane made last contact with Pokhara airport at around 10:50 am local time, about 18 minutes after take-off. It then crashed into the mouth of the nearby Seti River. First responders from Nepal’s army and various police departments have been deployed to the crash site and are conducting a rescue operation, civil aviation authorities said in a statement.

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

“I sincerely appeal to the security personnel, all agencies of the Government of Nepal and the general public to initiate an effective rescue,” Dahal tweeted.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Sunday that he was “deeply saddened” to hear of the crash and that his thoughts were “with the affected families”.

Nepal’s Yeti Airlines said it was canceling all scheduled flights on Monday, January 16, in mourning for the crash victims.

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

Last May, a Tara Air flight with 22 people on board crashed into a Himalayan mountain at an altitude of about 14,500 feet. According to the Aviation Safety Network database, it was the country’s 19th plane crash in 10 years and the 10th fatal during the same period.

The plane involved in Sunday’s crash was an ATR 72-500, a twin-engine turbojet frequently used in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly among low-cost carriers. Aircraft manufactured by ATR, a joint partnership between European aeronautics companies Airbus and Leonardo, usually have a good reputation.

However, they have been involved in accidents before. Two ATR 72s operated by the now-defunct Taiwanese airline Transasia were involved in deadly collisions in July 2014 and February 2015. The second prompted Taiwanese authorities to temporarily ground all ATR 72s registered on the island.

In total, various ATR 72 models had been involved in 11 fatal incidents before Sunday’s crash in Nepal, 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 individuals affected by this,” the statement said. “ATR’s specialists are fully committed to supporting the investigation and the client.”

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