Nepal plane crash updates: Search teams retrieved the flight data and cockpit voice recorders Monday of a passenger plane that plummeted into a gorge on approach to a new airport in the foothills of the Himalayas, officials said, as investigators looked for the cause of Nepal’s deadliest plane crash in 30 years.
At least 70 of the 72 people aboard were killed, and officials believe the two missings are also dead. Rescuers combed through the debris, scattered down a 300-meter-deep (984-foot-deep) gorge, for them.
Many of the passengers on Sunday’s flight were returning home to Pokhara, though the city is also popular with tourists since it’s the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit hiking trail. On Monday evening, relatives and friends were still gathered outside a local hospital, some shouting at officials to speed up the post mortems so they could hold funerals for their loved ones.
Cause of crash is still unknown
It’s still not clear what caused the crash, which took place less than a minute’s flight from the airport on a mild day with little wind.
In footage taken by a passenger out of a window as the plane came in for a landing, buildings, roads and greenery are visible below. The video, by Sonu Jaiswal and verified by The Associated Press, then shows a violent jolt and a series of jerky images accompanied by yelling before flames fill the screen.
Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said the aircraft last made contact with the airport, which began operations only two weeks ago, from near Seti Gorge.
"I thought that today everything will be finished here after it crashes"
A witness who recorded footage of the plane’s descent said it looked like a normal landing until the plane suddenly veered to the left.
“I saw that, and I was shocked,” said Diwas Bohora. “I thought that today everything will be finished here after it crashes, I will also be dead.”
After it crashed, red flames erupted and the ground shook violently, Bohora said. “Seeing that scene, I was scared,” he added.
Amit Singh, an experienced pilot and founder of India’s Safety Matters Foundation, said Bohora’s video appears to show a stall, a situation in which a plane loses lift, especially likely at low airspeeds.
ATR-72 aircraft belongs to Nepal's Yeti airlines
The twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft, operated by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, was completing the 27-minute flight from the capital, Kathmandu, to Pokhara, 200 kilometres (125 miles) west. It was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreign nationals, as well as four crew members, Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. The foreigners included five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France.
Jagannath Niraula, a spokesman for the authority, said the flight recorders will be handed over to investigators. Pemba Sherpa, the spokesperson for Yeti Airlines, confirmed that both the flight data and the cockpit voice recorders were found.
What Indian pilot says about Nepal's geographical condition
Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains including Mount Everest. A pilot who routinely flies an ATR 72-500 plane from India to Nepal said the region’s topography, with its mountain peaks and narrow valleys, raises the risk of accidents and sometimes requires pilots to fly by sight rather than relying on instruments.
The pilot, who works for a private Indian airline and insisted on anonymity due to company policy, called the ATR 72-500 an “unforgiving aircraft” if the pilot isn’t highly skilled and familiar with the region’s terrain and wind speeds.
Hundreds of people have gathered outside the Pokhara Academy of Health and Science, Western Hospital, where the bodies are being kept.
Bimala Bhenderi said was planning to meet her friend, Tribhuban Paudel, on Tuesday when she heard that his flight had crashed. “I’m so sad, I can’t believe it still,” she said in tears.
Bikash Jaiswal said he could only identify his wife’s brother only by the ring he wore, and that he had yet to tell his wife, who just gave birth to their daughter. Sanjay Jaiswal, who worked as a marketing agent for a private pharmaceutical company in Kathmandu, was flying to Pokhara for the birth. More than 24 hours after the crash, his body lay in the same hospital where his niece was born.
(With inputs from AP)
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