All 19 on board dead in Nepal plane crash

September 25th, 2011 - 5:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 25 (IANS) A small aircraft crashed near here Sunday morning, killing all 19 people on board, but the grief and anxiety of the victims’ families was compounded after they were handed out wrong names of the Indian passengers.

A much anticipated trip to Nepal for a glimpse of the majestic Mt Everest, the highest peak in the world, up close from air led 10 Indian tourists along with nine other fliers into the jaws of death as the Beech aircraft, belonging to Buddha Airlines, crashed in Kotdanda — a forested area in Lalitpur district about 20 km from Kathmandu.

The 10 Indian tourists are mostly from Tamil Nadu’s Tiruchirappalli town.

The Indian embassy in Kathmandu identified the eight people from Trichy as M. Maruthachalam, M. Manimaran, A.K. Krisunan, V.M. Kankasabesan, T. Dhansekaran, Kattoor Mahalingam, Meenakshi Sundaram and K. Thyagarajan.

The other two Indians were identified as Pankaj Mehta and Chaya Mehta. At least one of them was working for the UN in Kathmandu.

The fresh identification was made on the basis of identity cards and other documents after Nepal’s aviation authorities had earlier released a set of different names.

Though rescuers managed to bring out a lone survivor from the wreck site, the grievously injured 36-year-old Nepali man, identified as Nirajan Karmacharya, died while receiving medical treatment at Lalitpur’s B&B; Hospital.

The aircraft had flown the group to the Mt Everest region in northern Nepal and crashed while returning to the capital around 7.50 a.m., minutes after it went out of contact.

It was carrying 16 passengers — 10 Indians, three Nepalis and three foreigners.

The three-member crew comprised Captain J.B. Tamrakar, co-pilot Padma Adhikari and air-hostess Ashmita Adhikari.

Among the three foreigners, two were Americans — Andrew Wade and Natalie Neilan, and a Japanese tourist, Uejima Toshinori.

The two remaining Nepali passengers were Jagjan Karmacharya and Sarda Karmacharya.

Initial reports said the crash, which took place minutes before landing, could have occurred due to bad weather and poor visibility.

Locals, army and armed policemen undertook the painful task of gathering the bodies and bringing them back to Kathmandu for post-mortem.

Doctors at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital said post-mortem examination had already started. The bodies would be handed over to relatives once the process was over.

Some of the bodies were yet to be identified and the authorities said they were awaiting the arrival of family members.

The government said it had formed a three-member team to investigate the incident. The black box of the aircraft has been recovered.

The crash comes at a time Nepal is observing tourism year 2011 with the intention of bringing in one million air-borne tourists, mostly Indians.

Monsoon and its after-months are the time most crashes occur.

Last December, Nepal’s domestic carrier Tara Air flying 22 people, mostly Bhutanese pilgrims, crashed after smashing into a mountain east of Kathmandu, killing all on board.

Another major crash occurred in August the same year when a plane flying to the Everest region crashed due to bad weather, killing all 14 people on board, including four Americans, a Japanese and a Briton.

Buddha Air recently started international flights, first heading to Bhutan and then ferrying passengers to India’s Lucknow city. It has had one of the safest flying records in Nepal, this being the first major mishap in almost 14 years.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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