Rescue teams searching the wreckage of a plane crash in a ravine in Nepal on Monday uncovered the data and cockpit voice recorders and the remains of a 69th victim, authorities said.
The cause of Sunday’s crash near the tourist town of Pokhara is still under investigation. The flight carried 68 passengers and a crew of four. The search for the three missing persons continued on Monday.
“We are praying for a miracle,” local official Tek Bahadur KC told Agence France-Presse. “But the hope of finding anyone alive is nil.”
At least 41 of the victims had been identified, but authorities said many bodies in the country’s deadliest plane crash since 1992 had been burned beyond recognition. A team of forensic experts has reached Pokhara from Kathmandu to complete the identifications, the civil aviation authority of Nepal said.
The agency said authorities have begun returning the remains to families, who are pushing for the process to be expedited so they can hold funerals for their loved ones.
Details of the crash emerge:
►Authorities temporarily closed Pokhara International Airport, which was newly built and operated for just two weeks before the crash happened less than a minute’s flight from the airport.
►Local officials had raised concerns that the number of birds in the area could pose a threat to the new airport due to the habitat provided by two rivers and a nearby landfill.
VICTIM BURNED UNKNOWN:Search for missing Nepal crash underway
How did the crash develop?
Yeti Airlines flight NYT691 crashed near the resort town of Pokhara around 10:50 a.m. local time while on approach to the airport, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said. The plane completed a 27-minute flight from Kathmandu. Prem Nath Thakur, general manager of Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, said the plane had received clearance to land. The weather was clear, there was very little wind and the pilots reported no technical problems, he said.
Recorded by passenger Sonu Jaiswal and verified by The Associated Press, the video shows buildings, roads and greenery as the plane approaches the airport, followed by a violent jerk and a series of jerky frames accompanied by screams before flames fill the screen.
“Like a bomb went off,” then fire
Brig. General Krishna Prasad Bhandari, an army spokesman, told China’s state-run Xinhua news agency that many bodies were burned beyond recognition and that 80% of the plane was destroyed by fire.
Bikash Jaiswal said he can only identify his wife’s brother – Sanjay Jaiswal – by the ring he wears and that he has yet to tell his wife, who has just given birth to their daughter. Sanjay flew to Pokhara for the birth.
“He was a hardworking person and now there is no one in his family who could earn anything,” Bikash said.
Local resident Arun Tamu, 44, was about 500 meters away and live-streamed some of the burning debris on social media.
“I was walking when I heard a loud bang like a bomb went off,” the former soldier told AFP. “Some of us rushed over to see if we could save anyone. I saw at least two women breathing. The fire became very intense and made it difficult for us to approach.”
What caused the plane crash in Nepal?
Dramatic video captured on a smartphone from the ground shows the final moments before the plane crashed. The plane’s nose is noticeably up before the left wing suddenly tumbles and the plane falls out of the video’s field of view, indicating a likely stall, said Amit Singh, a veteran pilot and founder of India’s Safety Matters Foundation.
Professor Ron Bartsch, aviation safety expert and founder of Australia’s Avlaw Aviation Consulting, told Sydney’s Channel 9 that the pilot may have been using an optical illusion to believe he was flying through the air faster than he actually was, which resulted in the the plane stalled.
“Planes need air to fly in, and the air is thinner at about 2,700 feet,” Bartsch said. “It may seem that you fly much faster over the ground than through the air.”
What type of plane crashed in Nepal?
The ATR 72-500 aircraft was built by the Franco-Italian aerospace company ATR.
“Our first thoughts are with everyone affected by this,” the company said in a statement. “ATR specialists are fully committed to assisting both the investigation and the client.”
Aircraft tracking website flightradar24.com said the plane was 15 years old and “equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data”.
In July 2014, a TransAsia ATR 72-500 aircraft crashed while attempting to land in the scenic Penghu Archipelago between Taiwan and China, killing 48 people on board. An ATR 72-600 of the same Taiwanese airline crashed shortly after takeoff from Taipei in February 2015 after one of its engines failed and the second was apparently accidentally shut down.
Who was on the plane?
The passenger list: 53 Nepalese, five Indians, four Russians, two Koreans and one person each from Argentina, Australia, Ireland and France. Russian Ambassador to Nepal Alexei Novikov confirmed the deaths of the four Russians. The Nepalese authorities have released the names.
Why is there a high risk of accidents in Nepal?
Sunday’s crash was Nepal’s deadliest in 30 years, when all 167 people on board a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when the plane crashed into a hill on approach to Kathmandu Airport. Nepal has a history of plane crashes. According to the Safety Matters Foundation, there have been 42 fatal plane crashes in Nepal since 1946.
The aviation authority blamed “hostile topography” and “varying weather patterns” in a 2019 safety report, noting that Nepal claims eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains. Mount Everest is one of them. According to the report, many accidents occurred at airports with short runways – and most were due to pilot error.
Nepal has been accused of weak security standards
The European Union has banned airlines from Nepal from flying into the 27-nation bloc since 2013, citing weak safety standards as the reason. In 2017, the International Civil Aviation Organization cited improvements in Nepal’s aviation sector, but the EU continues to call for administrative reforms.
Yeti flight co-pilot joined the profession after his husband died in a plane crash
The accident on Sunday triggered a tragic feeling of déjà vu in a Nepalese family.
Anju Khatiwada was the co-pilot of Yeti Airlines Flight NYT691 and was among 72 people known or believed to have died in the disaster, which fell 17 years after the death of her pilot’s husband in a plane crash in the United States took place in 2006, the New York Times reported.
According to the newspaper, the loss of her husband prompted Khatiwada to give up her nursing career and pursue pilot training in the United States. Upon returning to Nepal in 2010, she joined the same airline her husband had flown for and became a captain.
“Anju’s father asked her not to choose the pilot’s profession,” Gopal Regmi, a relative, told the Times. “After the tragic death of her husband, she was determined to be a pilot.”
Contribution: The Associated Press