19 killed in Everest tour plane crash


A small aircraft taking tourists on a morning sightseeing trip around Mount Everest crashed into a hillside near the Nepalese capital Kathmandu on Sunday, killing all 19 people on board.
The Buddha Air Beechcraft plane carrying 10 Indian passengers, three other foreign tourists, three locals and three Nepali crew came down in heavy rain and fog at Godavari, around 10 kilometres (six miles) from Kathmandu.
“All 19 people have died. The Buddha Air-103 was returning from a mountain flight when it crashed into Kotdada Hill,” Bimlesh Lal Karna, head of the rescue department at Tribhuwan International Airport, told AFP.
Police spokesman Binod Singh said that one person had initially survived the crash but had died in hospital.
“The rescue efforts have been hampered by heavy rain,” he added.
Airport authorities on the ground lost contact with the plane at 7:30 am (0145 GMT) and it crashed four minutes later.
Local television stations reported that witnesses saw flames coming from the aircraft just before it crashed.
“The plane was flying very low. We were surprised. It crashed into the hill and there was a huge explosion,” a witness told the Avenues Television news channel.
“We climbed for one-and-a-half hours without taking rest to reach the crash site,” he said. “Human body parts were visible.”
Buddha Air, a private airline based in Kathmandu, was not immediately available for comment but was due to release a statement later.
The company offers a 8,240 rupee ($140) “Everest Experience” package, taking tourists from Kathmandu and flying them around the world’s tallest mountain and surrounding peaks.
The Buddha Air website describes the Beechcraft as the “safest plane operating in the domestic sector”.
Air travel is popular in Nepal, which has only a very limited road network. Many communities, particularly in the mountains and hills, are accessible only on foot or by air.
Aviation accidents are relatively common, particularly during the summer monsoon, when visibility often poor.
A Twin Otter plane carrying three crew and 19 passengers, including one American, smashed into a mountainside shortly after taking off from a small airstrip 140 kilometres east of Kathmandu in December last year.
The passengers were mostly Bhutanese citizens on a religious tour of Nepal and had chartered the Tara Air plane to take them to a Buddhist holy site in the area.
In November last year a helicopter crashed near Mount Everest during a mission to rescue two stranded climbers, killing the pilot and an engineer.
Three months earlier, a plane headed for the Everest region crashed in bad weather killing all 14 people on board, including four Americans, a Japanese and a British national.
An investigation blamed that crash on a power failure. It said the plane’s generator failed and the pilot did not follow the proper procedures to conserve the remaining battery power.