By Purushottam Khatri/Ramesh Poudel
Kathmandu/Pokhara Jan 16 : An aircraft of Yeti Airlines flying to Pokhara from Kathmandu crashed in the Seti gorge near the old airport in Pokhara at 10.50 am on Sunday, killing all 72 passengers and crew on board.
Of 72 passengers on board, 68 passengers’ bodies have been retrieved by Sunday night from Yeti Airlines flight ATR-72 500 plane crash site at Nayagaun of Gharipatan of Pokhara Metropolitan City-15 in Kaski on Sunday.
Issuing a press statement this evening, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), has said that only 68 bodies have been found so far. Among them, 11 people have been identified. Four of the bodies are yet to be found. Security forces of Nepali Army, Armed Police Force and Nepal Police have been engaged in search of the missing passengers.
A team of deep divers of the Armed Police Force has been mobilised to search for them, according to spokesperson and SSP Purushottam Thapa of APF. The NYT 691 aircraft having call sign 9N-ANC met the fatality at 10:59 am; it had taken off from Kathmandu to Pokhara at 10:32.
It is said that the aircraft has met with the accident during its third consecutive flight to the same destination. The airplane had made its first flight at 8:05 am. According to a press statement issued by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), rescue operation has been made effective with the mobilisation of two helicopters, air ambulance, medical support and other vehicles.
This was the first airplane crash in Pokhara after a fortnight of the inauguration of the international airport there. The 72-seat airplane was first ever biggest air crash that took place in Nepal.
According to Yeti Airline and Spokesperson for the Company Surdarshan Bartaula, the aircraft was flown by Senior Captain Kamal KC.
General Manager of Tribhuvan International Airport Prem Nath Thakur said that 68 passengers, including four crew members, were on board the flight. Of the total 68 passengers, six were minors, 37 males and 25 females.
According to Kaski Police Chief Superintendent of Police (SP) Ajay KC, the 72-seat ATR flight crashed while it was in the process of landing. CAAN has said that the plane had come in contact with Pokhara Airport at 10:50.
Chief District Officer of Kaski, Tek Bahadur KC, said that the plane, which was in the process of landing, had an accident in the gorge of Seti River, some 2 km away from the newly inaugurated International Airport. The crash site lies in between the old and newly inaugurated airport.
According the Search and Rescue Operation Centre of the CAAN, 53 passengers were Nepali citizens, five Indian nationals, four Russians, one Irish, one Australian, one Argentine, two Korean citizens, and one French.
The crew members included Senior pilot Kamal KC, accompanied by co-pilot Anju Khatiwada, along with two air hostesses Osin Alemagar, and Srijana Hongchun.
Last May, a Tara Air flight carrying 22 aboard crashed into a Himalayan Mountain at an altitude of about 14,500 feet in Thasang, Mustang.
68 recovered bodies taken to hospital
The bodies of 68 people have been recovered from the plane crash site of Pokhara, according to Brigadier General and Spokesperson for the Nepali Army Krishna Bhandari.
According to Bhandari, 68 bodies have been recovered from the accident site so far and taken to the Gandaki Hospital.
According to a record of flightradar24, a live flight tracker, before the crash, the aircraft had made two flights to the same destination - one at 8:05 am from Kathmandu to Pokhara, another from Pokhara (8:50) to Kathmandu (9:18), and the third at 10:32 from Kathmandu to Pokhara.
PM briefed by TIA officials
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda has reached Tribhuvan International Airport after the plane crashed and held discussions with the TIA officials.
Airport officials briefed the Prime Minister, who arrived with Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane, about the possible cause of the accident.
The Rescue Coordination Centre at the airport briefed both the Prime Minister and the Home Minister about the accident there.
“There are many reasons for plane crashes, it takes time to understand the actual reason. But as far as we can see, the plane fell due to imbalance,” the airport officials told the Prime Minister. “Nothing has been revealed as to what caused the imbalance.”
During the briefing, it was said that the pilot took the plane to gorge to protect the settlement. “The plane did not crash in the settlement, it went down in the gorge,” it is said in the briefing, “the exact reason will be revealed after the investigation.”
During that time, the Prime Minister instructed to speed up the rescue and find out the cause as soon as possible, according to his secretariat.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda has expressed grief over the plane crash that took place in Pokhara today.
Expressing grief over the accident, Prachanda has directed the Ministry of Home Affairs, security personnel, and all agencies of the Nepal government to carry out effective rescue operations.
The Prime Minister has instructed the Ministry of Home Affairs, security personnel, and all agencies of the Government of Nepal to start the rescue.
The Prime Minister’s Secretariat said that the Prime Minister had visited Tribhuvan International Airport to understand the details of the accident.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prachanda has called an emergency meeting of the Council of Ministers while expressing grief over the tragic incident of Yeti Airlines crash in Pokhara on Sunday morning.
Two fishermen injured
Meanwhile, two fishermen fishing in the Seti were rescued. They were fishing when the plane crashed in the gorge. Kumar Ale, a fisherman, sustained injury in his leg when a stone falling from the crash site hit him.
He kept himself safe by hiding in a cave.