A small plane taking tourists ona 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 Indians, two Americans, one Japanese citizen and three local passengers came down in heavy rain and fog at Godavari, about 10 Kilometers ( six Miles) from Khathmandu.
The three Nepalese crew also died in the accident as plane smashed into wooded slopes, leaving the fuselage broken into several pieces. Police spokesman Binod Singh said one person initially survived the crash but died in hospital. Airport authorities on the ground lost contact with the plane at 7:30 am and it crashed minutes later. “When we reached the crash site, we found the dead bodies scattered within 25 meters of the site which is surrounded by trees”, said a police officer who took part in the rescue.
“The nearest road is 50 meters away. There were mangled remains of the aircraft which was broken into several pieces, the Plane was plying very low. We are surprised. It crashed into the hill and there was a huge explosion,” an eyewitness told the Avenues Television news channel. Investigators scouring the accident site found the black box flight data recorder several hours after the crash, and police said a probe was underway to establish the cause of the accident. Buddha Air, a private airline based in Kathmandu, was not immediately available for comment.
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”. It adds that early morning flights are scheduled to take advantage of better weather conditions before winds blow up snow plumes that can obscure the Himalayan panorama.
The one-hour flights are popular among tourists, and several companies offer daily trips to view the 8,848 meters Everest Summit. Aviation accidents are relatively common in Nepal, particularly during the summer monsoon when visibility is often poor. In december last year a Twin Otter plane carrying three crew and 19 passengers smashed onto a mountainside shortly after taking off from a small airstrip 140 Kilometres east of Kathmandu.