Small plane crash in Nepal kills 15 people, including 13 Indians
KATHMANDU (IANS): Thirteen Indians on a pilgrimage were killed along with two crew members when their 20-seater aircraft slammed into a cliff in western Nepal on Monday, less than seven months after 10 Indian tourists were killed in an air crash. The six survivors include three Indians.
The Agni Air Dornier plane, carrying 16 Indians and two Danish passengers as well as three crew members, crashed in Jomsom, known for its magnificent mountain views and the starting point for major trekking routes, at about 9.45 am on Monday.
The plane was flying from Pokhara, a major tourist destination, to Jomsom, a distance of about 60 km.
The Indian embassy here said that of the 18 passengers, 16 were Indians.
“Six people have been rescued alive from the crash out of which three are Indian nationals. These include Tirumala Kidambi Sreekanth, Tirumala Kidambi Sreevardhini (9) and Tirumala Kidambi Sreepada (6), who are currently undergoing treatment at Manipal Hospital, Pokhara. The other 13 Indians are feared to be dead,” it said in a press release.
Laxmi Raj Sharma, a district official, said that 15 bodies had been recovered.
Pilot Prabhu Sharan Pathak and co-pilot JD Maharjan were among the dead. The other victims are Indians who were on a pilgrimage to the famous Muktinath temple, sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists.
According to myrepublica.com, the Indians killed in the crash were K Mamanya, SK Arora, M Handa, M Arora, R Handa, K Arora, T Sachdev, G Sachdev, Sanaim Sudhar, G Raman, and Latha Echambade. Also dead were two passengers identified only as Mr Kumar and Mrs Kumar.A photograph showed one of the Danish nationals being helped by two security personnel and the distraught airhostess being carried on a stretcher.
The Jomsom airport, with the airstrip carved out of the mountain, is about 200 km northwest of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu. The pilot, experts said, have to manoeuvre skilfully to land the plane in the treacherous mountain area.
The plane had taken off from Pokhara airport at 9.30 am and crashed 15 minutes later on a cliff, while it was about to return to Pokhara following a technical glitch, Yogendra Kunwar, assistant manager at the traffic control room in Pokhara airport, was quoted as saying.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Gynanedra Singh Bhandari said the plane crashed behind the Army barracks, enabling a quick rescue operation.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai expressed sorrow over the death of 15 people in the crash and hoped for early recovery of the injured.
India’s External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said he was “deeply saddened”.
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“I would like to convey my deep condolences to the families of all those who have lost their lives in this accident.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all those who have lost their near and dear ones. I hope that the Almighty will grant them strength to bear their loss with fortitude,” Krishna added.
Jomsom is the capital and administration headquarters of Mustang district, which stretches from the Tibetan border to Ghasa along the Kali Gandaki river.
The tragedy was a reminder of the September 25, 2011 crash in which all 19 people, mostly Indian tourists, were killed after a small plane carrying them crashed close to capital city Kathmandu.
Agni Air, which began operations March 16, 2006 with one Dornier Do-228 aircraft, is now operating six aircraft, three Dornier-228 Aircrafts built in German and three Jetstream-41 built in Britain to various domestic sectors, its website said.
Monday’s crash took place just two years after another Agni Air plane went down.
On August 24, 2010, a 15-seater Dornier aircraft flown by the airline towards the Everest region with 11 passengers, including four American women, experienced equipment failure and went off the radar. It plunged minutes later in Shikharpur, a remote village in Makwanpur district adjacent to the Kathmandu valley.