23 dead; rescuers struggle to retrieve bodies
KATHMANDU: Emergency workers have found the bodies of 19 people killed when their plane crashed into a mountainside in western Nepal with the loss of all 23 passengers and crew, police said Thursday.
Police and army returned to the crash site at first light after abandoning recovery efforts late Wednesday due to bad weather in the remote Himalayan district where the Twin Otter turboprop aircraft came down.
The site in Myagdi district is around 16,000 feet (4,900 meters) high in the Himalayas and can only be reached on foot or by helicopter.
“We are on a search mission here to find the bodies of all the victims,” police superintendent Chhabi Lal Joshi told AFP by phone from the site of the crash, the latest in a series of fatal aviation accidents in the impoverished Himalayan nation.
“We have found 19 bodies so far, and some body parts.”
Joshi said workers had built a makeshift helipad to transport the bodies to the nearest airport in the town of Pokhara, around 220 kilometers west of Kathmandu.
But the airline, Tara Air, said strong winds had prevented helicopters from reaching the area on Thursday.
“Two helicopters have been sent since morning, but failed to reach the site. We will try again,” said spokesman Bhim Raj Rai.
The Tara Air flight from Pokhara to Jomsom — about a 20-minute flight — was carrying three crew and 20 passengers, including a Chinese national and a Kuwaiti.
All the others were from Nepal and two of them were children.
The government said it had formed a committee to investigate the tragedy, the cause of which is not yet known.
Tara Air is a subsidiary of Yeti Airlines, a privately owned domestic carrier founded in 1998 that services many remote destinations across Nepal.
It suffered its last fatal accident in 2010 when a plane chartered by a group of Bhutanese tourists crashed into a mountainside in eastern Nepal.
The country, which is still reeling from a devastating earthquake last April, has in recent years suffered a number of air disasters.
Most have been attributed to inexperienced pilots, poor management and inadequate maintenance.
The European Union blacklisted all Nepal’s airlines in 2013.