Kathmandu: Ten Indians, mostly from Tamil Nadu, were among 19 people today killed when a small plane carrying them crashed into a hillside near the Nepalese capital while attempting to land after an aerial viewing trip of Mount Everest.
All 19 people, two Americans and a Japanese national, were killed in the crash, officials said.
The Beechcraft turboprop plane, broke into pieces. Six Nepalese, including three crew members of Buddha Air were killed in the crash.
The incident was also marked by a goof up by Nepalese authorities who initially released a wrong passenger list of the Indians killed in the accident.
The BHA 103 flight, which crashed at 7.30 am local time, had taken tourists to view Mount Everest and other high peaks, broke into pieces at Kotdanda hills minutes after losing contact with the control tower, according to Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).
Eight Indians belonged to a group of Tiruchirappalli- based builders. The deceased – all members of the Builders’ Association of India had planned in advance for the trip to Nepal. An Indian couple belonging to Gujarat were also among the victims.
Among those killed was a Nepalese passenger, who initially survived the crash but succumbed to his wounds in hospital after being rescued from the accident site at Kotdanda near Bishankhunarayan Temple in Lalitpur district, located 20 km east of the capital.
Apart from 13 foreigners, the plane was carrying three Nepalese passengers and a three-member crew, according to the Rescue Coordination Centre, Tribhuvan International Airport, under the CAAN. The rescue efforts were hampered by bad weather in the region.
Investigators found the black box flight recorder several hours after the accident and police said a probe was on to establish the cause of the crash.
The Indian nationals killed in the crash were identified as Pankaj Mehta and his wife Chhaya, and eight men from Tamil Nadu — M V Marathachalam, M Manimaran, V M Kanakasabesan, A K Krishnan, R M Minaxi Sunsaram, K Thiyagarajan, T Dhanasekaran and Kattoos Mahalingam.
57-year-old Mehta was working as chief of the health section of UNICEF, Kathmandu.
According to Mehta’s colleagues here, the couple had been here for the past three years and had possibly come from Gujarat.
The eight tourists from Tamil Nadu were staying at Hotel Grand at Tahachal, according to the hotel’s Sales Manager Phurba Sherpa. The two Americans killed were identified as Andrew Wade and Natalie Neilan, while the Japanese national was identified as Ujima Toshinori.
The three crew members killed in the crash were Captain J D Tamrakar, Captain P Adhikari and air hostess A Shrestha. The Indian Embassy here said that it was providing all assistance for the prompt evacuation of the remains of 10 Indian nationals killed in the plane crash.
While expressing sadness over the tragedy, the mission said, “we are in constant contact with the Nepali authorities which are carrying out search and relief operations at the site of the crash.”
Bodies of all ten Indians were taken to TU Teaching Hospital after being flown to Kathmandu. Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar visited the Tribhuvan International Airport here to take stock of the situation, especially handling of the bodies.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal has formed a three-member team, headed by former CAAN Director General Jajeshraj Dali, to investigate the crash. Quoting witnesses, local TV channels said flames could be seen coming from the plane just before it crashed.
Buddha Air offers an ‘Everest Experience’ package for USD 140 under which it takes tourists for an hour-long flight around 8848-metre high Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, for sightseeing. In the recent past, Nepal has witnessed some plane crashes.
In December last year, a Twin Otter plane carrying 22 people, mostly Bhutanese nationals and an American, crashed after taking off from a small airstrip 140 km east of Kathmandu.
Earlier in November, a helicopter, which was on a mission to rescue two stranded climbers, crashed near Mount Everest, killing two people. Three months before this accident, a plane going to the Everest region crashed in bad weather, killing all 14 people on board, including four Americans, a Japanese and a British national.