POKHARA, NEPAL (AP) – Search teams retrieved the flight data and cockpit voice recorders yesterday of a passenger plane that crashed on approach to a new airport in Nepal’s Himalayan foothills, officials said. At least 69 of the 72 people aboard were killed in the crash, whose cause is unknown.
Rescuers are still searching the debris, which is scattered down a 300-metre gorge, for the three missing people believed to be dead.
Many of the passengers on Sunday’s flight were returning home to Pokhara, though the city is also popular with tourists since it’s the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit hiking trail.
It’s still not clear what caused the crash, which took place less than a minute’s flight from the airport on a mild day with little wind.
Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said the aircraft last made contact with the airport, which began operations only two weeks ago, from near Seti Gorge before crashing.
The twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft, operated by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, was completing the 27-minute flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara, 200 kilometres west. It was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreign nationals, as well as four crew members, Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. The foreigners included five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France.
The Civil Aviation Authority said 41 people have been identified. Police Spokesperson Gyan Khadka said the bodies would be handed over to family after officials finish post mortem reports.
ATR identified the plane involved as an ATR 72-500. According to plane tracking data from flightradar24.com, the aircraft was 15-years-old and “equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data”. It was previously flown by India’s Kingfisher Airlines and Thailand’s Nok Air before Yeti took it over in 2019, according to Airfleets.net records.