Plane crash in Nepal: first bodies returned to families

Steph Deschamps / January 17, 2023

The bodies of the victims of the plane crash in Nepal began Tuesday to be returned to their families two days after this air disaster, the worst in the country since 1992.
The plane, a twin-engine ATR 72 belonging to Nepalese company Yeti Airlines, carrying 68 passengers and four crew members, crashed into a ravine on Sunday while approaching Pokhara airport (center).
All the occupants of the plane, including 15 foreigners and six children, are presumed dead, authorities said.
Rescuers have been working almost non-stop since the crash to recover human remains from the pile of charred wing parts, fuselage and seats at the bottom of the 300-meter deep ravine.
By Tuesday morning, 70 bodies out of 72 had been recovered, police officer AK Chhetri told AFP.
We recovered a body last night. But it is three pieces. We are not sure if it is three bodies or 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 in 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 expected to follow on Tuesday.
God has taken such a nice person away from us," lamented Raj Dhungana, the uncle of 23-year-old passenger Sangita Shahi, outside the hospital in Pokhara.
All the family "is in mourning" after the disappearance of this young woman "very talented", who was studying in Kathmandu while holding a makeup studio and an online store, he told AFP.
The ATR 72, coming from Kathmandu, crashed shortly before 11:00 am on Sunday near the airport of Pokhara, Nepal's second largest city, a pilgrimage center and an 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 plane turning sharply to the left as it approached the airport, suggesting a loud explosion.
Experts consulted by the AFP were not able to judge, from this video, if the accident seemed rather due to a mechanical problem or to a piloting error.
The black boxes of the aircraft have not yet been found. Experts of the French Bureau of Accident Investigation (BEA) were expected in Nepal on Tuesday, said the manufacturer ATR to AFP.
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 to supply remote regions of the country and to transport trekkers and mountaineers, 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 entering its airspace for these reasons.
Nepal also has some of the most remote runways in the world, flanked by towering peaks, making the approach a challenge even for experienced pilots.
The deadliest air disaster in Nepal's history occurred in September 1992. All 167 occupants of a Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A300 died when the plane crashed on the approach to Kathmandu.
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