It is the worst air disaster in Nepal since 1992. Two days later, on Tuesday, the bodies of the victims of the plane crash in Nepal began to be returned to their families. The plane, a twin-engine ATR 72 from the Nepalese company Yeti Airlines which was carrying 68 passengers and four crew members, crashed into a ravine on Sunday while on approach to Pokhara airport (center).
All of the occupants of the aircraft, including 15 foreigners and six children, are presumed dead, according to the authorities. Rescuers have worked almost tirelessly since the accident to recover the human remains among the pile of pieces of wings, fuselage and charred seats at the bottom of the ravine, 300 meters deep. As of Tuesday morning, 70 out of 72 bodies had been found, police officer AK Chhetri said.
” Three pieces “
“We recovered a body last night. But it’s three pieces. We’re not sure if it’s three bodies or just one. This will only be confirmed after a DNA test,” he explained. “The search for the other two missing bodies has resumed. We have mobilized four drones today for this purpose, and we have extended the search radius to three kilometers instead of two,” he added.
A dozen bodies were transported on board an army truck from the hospital in Pokhara to the airport to be sent to the capital Kathmandu. Three were returned to their families in Pokhara, and several others were to follow Tuesday during the day. “God has taken back such a pleasant person from us,” lamented in front of the Pokhara hospital Raj Dhungana, the uncle of Sangita Shahi, a 23-year-old passenger.
The cause of the accident still unknown
The whole family “is in mourning” after the disappearance of this “very talented” young woman, who was studying in Kathmandu while running a makeup studio and an online store, he said. The ATR 72, coming from Kathmandu, crashed shortly before 11 a.m. (7:15 a.m. French time) on Sunday near the airport of Pokhara, Nepal’s second city, center of pilgrimage and important crossing point for foreign trekkers.
The cause of the accident was not yet known, but a video posted on social networks – verified by an AFP partner – showed the twin-engine vehicle veering sharply to the left as it approached the airport, and leaving hear a loud explosion. Experts consulted by AFP were not able to judge, from this video, if the accident seemed rather due to a mechanical problem or a pilot error.
Some of the most secluded tracks in the world
The black boxes of the device have not yet been found. Experts from the French Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA) were expected in Nepal on Tuesday, the manufacturer ATR said. According to the Press Trust of India (PTI), the pilot, Anju Khatiwada, had joined the Nepalese civil aviation after the death of her husband, killed in the accident of a small passenger plane in 2006.
Nepalese civil aviation, essential for supplying the remote regions of the country and transporting hikers and mountaineers there, has experienced a real boom in recent years. But the sector suffers from serious safety problems due to deficiencies in aircraft maintenance and pilot training. The European Union has banned all Nepalese carriers from accessing its airspace for these reasons. In addition, this country has some of the most isolated tracks in the world, flanked by vertiginous peaks, the approach of which constitutes a challenge even for experienced pilots.