A plane was flying to a tourist town in Nepal when it crashed into a gorge near the city of Pokhara, according to government officials. The aircraft, which was operated by Yeti Airlines, had 72 people on board – 68 passengers (including four Russians, five Indians, two South Koreans, and one individual each from Ireland, France, Australia, and Argentina) and four crew members, all of whom were Nepali. The civil aviation authority has reported that twenty-five of the passengers were women and thirty-seven were men; there were also three infants and three children on board.
So far, 68 have been confirmed dead, making it the deadliest plane crash in Nepal in more than three decades. The only incidents in which there were more casualties took place in September and July 1992. One was run by Pakistan International airlines while another was run by Thai Airlines; they had resulted in 167 and 113 deaths respectively.
The pilot of the aircraft last contacted Pokhara airport at approximately 10:50 a.m., about a change of runway, just minutes before it was scheduled to land.
In a video that was posted on social media, the plane was seen flying low over a residential area before rolling violently on its side. A loud explosion can then be heard after the plane flies out of view.
A second video, which was live-streamed on Facebook, shows the plane’s final moments. In the clip, a passenger, later identified as Sonu Jaiswal, is seen smiling at the camera just seconds before a deafening crash. Almost immediately, huge flames and smoke fill the screen as the Livestream continues; screams can be heard, as well as the screeching of the plane’s engine.
Following the crash, crowds of onlookers accumulated around the crash site near the resort town as rescue workers searched the wreckage. 68 individuals were confirmed dead with four missing. Officials eventually suspended the search overnight and continued in the morning.
One local resident, who rushed to the crash scene to help look for bodies, said that rescue efforts were extremely difficult due to the raging fire and thick smoke. He also revealed that he had heard a man crying for help among the wreckage but they were unable to help him due to the smoke and fire.
The ATR 72’s copilot, Anju Khatiwada, had joined Yeti Airlines in 2010, after the death of her husband, who died in a plane crash just four years prior. Khatiwada, who was 44 years old, had accumulated more than 6,400 flying hours and had flown the route previously, according to a spokesperson.
Following the incident, Nepal declared a day of national mourning. The plane’s black box has been recovered from the scene and a five-member committee has been formed to investigate why the Yeti Airlines plane crashed. French authorities will also be offering assistance as the aircraft involved was manufactured by ATR, an aerospace company headquartered in France.