Aircraft crash in Nepal kills 19

Fri, Sep 28, 2012, 01:00

A small plane crashed shortly after takeoff today from Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, killing 19 people.

The twin-engine propeller-driven Dornier aircraft, owned by private firm Sita Air, had taken off from Kathmandu for Lukla in the Mount Everest region when it crashed in a field near Kathmandu airport, police said.

Seven British and five Chinese passengers were killed, and four Nepali passengers and three Nepali crew were among the dead. A hiking group, Sherpa Adventure, said the Britons involved had been heading to the Khumbu area, home to Everest and other peaks.

Rescuers pulled bodies from the smouldering wreckage in a field on a riverbank near the airport. The Dornier, one of three operated by private firm Sita Air, was bound on a clear morning for Lukla - a gateway to Mount Everest.

Ratish Chandra Lal, general manager of Kathmandu airport, said the pilot had informed air traffic controllers that the plane had hit a bird.

The crash was the sixth fatal air incident in less than two years in Nepal, where more than a dozen small private carriers often brave bad weather to fly to mountain areas served by no proper road network.

Tourism officials said the latest crash could deter foreign tourists from embarking on treks in Nepal. Many of the dead were trekkers.

Autumn is the peak tourism season in Nepal which has eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest.

At least 11 people were killed in an avalanche in northwest Nepal on Sunday. In May, 15 people were killed when their plane crashed into a hill in northwest Nepal.

Nepal receives more than half a million tourists every year, many of them Western hikers and climbers. Tourism accounts for 4 per cent of an economy battered by a decade of civil war.


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