Chopper crashes, crew killed in bid to rescue Japanese climber (Second Lead)

November 7th, 2010 - 5:19 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Nov 7 (IANS) An aerial search and rescue operation for two Japanese climbers stranded on a high Himalayan range in northeastern Nepal ended in tragedy Sunday with the helicopter looking for them crashing above 16,000 ft, killing the pilot and his crew member.

“The crashed helicopter and the bodies of the dead crew members have been located at an altitude of nearly 6,000 metres,” private airline Fishtail Air, which had mounted the ill-fated rescue operation, told IANS. “We are now organising trekkers and a larger helicopter to bring the bodies down.”

Police said the missing helicopter had flown to the Ama Dablam range in northern Solukhumbu district, to locate and rescue two Japanese climbers who had fallen ill.

The Ama Dablam - meaning mother’s necklace - is a mountain range rising up to 6,812m (22,349ft), the thirdmost popular peak for climbers.

The chopper, flown by Nepali pilot Sabin Basnet, who was accompanied by a technician, Purna Awale, managed to rescue one of the stranded climbers, who was taken back to the base camp. However, when it returned for the remaining climber, it crashed while trying to land.

Two more helicopters that were rushed to the area after the chopper lost contact with the air control room flew around for several hours before they could locate the wreckage. The inaccessible terrain and snow hampered rescue attempts.

There was no further information about the second Japanese climber still stranded on Mt. Ama Dablam.

The Solukhumbu region is responsible for the highest number of air crashes due to bad weather and difficult terrain.

In August, an aircraft flown by a domestic airline, Agni Air, crashed after it was unable to land it northern Nepal and tried to return to Kathmandu.

All 14 people on board died in the crash, including six foreigners.

Last month, three Japanese climbers were killed by an avalanche on Mt Dhaulagiri, along with their Nepali guide.

While the body of one was recovered, the other two still remain missing.

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