Tourist sightseeing flights are an attraction on every tourism trip to Nepal. Today, a small aircraft taking tourists on a sightseeing trip around Mount Everest crashed in Nepal on Sunday, killing all 19 people on board, officials said.
The Buddha Air Beechcraft plane carrying 10 Indian passengers, 3 other foreign tourists, 3 locals, and 3 Nepali crew crashed into a hillside in heavy rain and fog at Godavari, around 10 kilometers from Kathmandu.
“All 19 people have died. The Buddha Air-103 was returning from a mountain flight when it crashed into Kotdada Hill,” said Bimlesh Lal Karna, head of the rescue department at Tribhuwan International Airport.
Ten of those who were killed in the accident were Indians, 3 other foreigners, and 6 Nepalese, including 3 crew members, according to Buddha Air.
The Indian nationals killed in the accident included Pankaj Mehta, Chhya Mehta, S. Nagraj, I. Nagraj, L. Nagraj, H.D. Nagraj, D. Talosubrisum, D.P. Talosubrisum, P. Talosubrisum, and Nagaraja Talosubrisum. All of them were from the Tamil Nadu State of India.
Similarly, the 3 foreigners were Jegina Toshinoru of Japan, and Andre Wade and Natalie Neinan of the United States of America.
Niranjan Karmacharya, Sarada Karmacharya, and Jagajan Karmacharya were Nepali passengers. Police spokesman Binod Singh told AFP, one person had initially survived the crash but had died in the hospital. Of them, 36-year-old Niranjan was rescued alive but succumbed to his injuries while being rushed to hospital.
The crew members were Captain JB Tamrakar, Captain Padma Adhikari, and Air Hostess Asmita Shrestha.
The cause of the accident is believed to be bad weather.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) sources, the aircraft had lost its communication at 7:30 this morning with the control room at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu and crashed while returning from a mountain flight.
Meanwhile, the Nepal Association of Tour Operators (NATO) has said it was extremely saddened to learn of the accident.
The association expressed its sympathy and heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased passengers and crew members.
NATO said it believes that Nepals entire domestic air services in general and Buddha Air flights in particular are still safe for travel.
“The rescue efforts have been hampered by heavy rain,” Police spokesman Binod Singh added.
Airport authorities on the ground lost contact with the plane at 7:30 am and it crashed 4 minutes later.
Local television stations reported that witnesses saw flames coming from the aircraft just before it crashed.
Buddha Air was not immediately available for comment.
The company offers an “Everest Experience” package, taking tourists from Kathmandu and flying them around the world’s tallest mountain.
The Buddha Air website describes the Beechcraft as the “safest plane operating in the domestic sector.”
Air travel is popular in Nepal, which has only a very limited road network. Many communities, particularly in the mountains and hills, are accessible only on foot or by air.
Aviation accidents are relatively common, particularly during the summer monsoon, when visibility is usually at its worst.
A Twin Otter plane carrying 3 crew and 19 passengers, including one American, smashed into a mountainside shortly after taking off from a small airstrip 140 kilometers east of Kathmandu in December last year.
The passengers were mostly Bhutanese citizens on a religious tour of Nepal and had chartered the Tara Air plane to take them to a Buddhist holy site in the area.
The plane’s black box data recorder was recovered and the government set up 2 separate inquiries, 1 into the cause of the accident and 1 into how the Bhutanese chartered a flight using false names.
In November last year, a helicopter crashed near Mount Everest during a mission to rescue 2 stranded climbers, killing the pilot and an engineer.
Three months earlier, a plane headed for the Everest region crashed in bad weather killing all 14 people on board, including 4 Americans, and a Japanese and a British national.
An investigation blamed that crash on a power failure. It said the plane’s generator failed, and the pilot did not follow the proper procedures to conserve the remaining battery power.