Pokhara (Nepal) (AFP), May 31 – Nepalese rescuers have recovered the bodies of 22 people from a plane that crashed in the Himalayas, authorities said on Tuesday as they began to identify the victims.
“All the bodies have now been found,” Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Deo Chandra Lal Karn told AFP.
Air traffic control lost contact with the Twin Otter plane shortly after taking off from Pokhara, western Nepal, on Sunday morning and headed for Jomsom, a popular trekking destination.
The wreckage was found a day later strewn on the mountainside at around 14,500 feet (4,420 meters).
Ten of the bodies were airlifted to the capital Kathmandu on Monday, with the other 12 still at the hard-to-reach crash site as bad weather hampered the operation, officials said.
Around 60 people took part in the search mission, including the army, police, mountain guides and locals, most of whom traveled miles to get there. Many spent the night camping at the high altitude site.
– On holiday –
The cause of the crash has not yet been confirmed, but Pokhara airport spokesman Dev Raj Subedi said on Monday that the plane operated by Nepalese carrier Tara Air did not catch fire in the air.
Four Indians and two Germans in their fifties were on board the twin-prop plane, along with 16 Nepalese, including a computer engineer, his wife and two daughters who had just returned from the United States.
The four Indians were a divorced couple and their daughter and son, aged 15 and 22, were on a family vacation.
“There was a court order for (the father) to spend time with the family for 10 days every year, so they would go on a trip,” Indian police official Uttam Sonawane told AFP.
– Poor security record –
According to the Aviation Safety Network website, the aircraft was manufactured by Canadian de Havilland and first flew more than 40 years ago.
Tara Air is a subsidiary of Yeti Airlines, a private national carrier serving many remote destinations across Nepal.
He suffered his last fatal accident in 2016 on the same route when a plane with 23 people on board crashed into the side of a mountain.
Nepal’s airline industry has boomed in recent years, ferrying goods and people between hard-to-reach areas as well as foreign trekkers and mountaineers.
But it has been plagued with a lack of safety due to insufficient training and maintenance.
The European Union has banned all Nepalese airlines from its airspace for security reasons.
The Himalayan country also has some of the most remote and difficult tracks in the world, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even to accomplished pilots.
The weather can also change quickly in the mountains, creating dangerous flying conditions.
In March 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines plane crashed near the notoriously difficult Kathmandu International Airport, killing 51 people and seriously injuring 20.
The accident was the deadliest in Nepal since 1992, when all 167 people on board a Pakistan International Airlines plane died when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu airport.
Just two months earlier, a Thai Airways plane had crashed near the same airport, killing 113 people.