POKHARA, Nepal — Nepali rescuers have retrieved the bodies of all 22 people from a plane that crashed in the Himalayas, authorities said Tuesday as they began identifying the victims.
“All bodies have now been found,” Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Deo Chandra Lal Karn told AFP.
Air traffic control lost contact with the Twin Otter plane shortly after it took off from Pokhara in western Nepal on Sunday morning and headed for Jomsom, a popular trekking destination.
The wreckage was found a day later strewn across a mountainside at around 14,500 feet (4,420 metres).
Ten of the bodies were brought by helicopter to the capital Kathmandu on Monday with the remaining 12 still at the hard-to-reach crash site, with poor weather hampering the operation, officials said.
About 60 people were involved in the search mission, including the army, police, mountain guides and locals, most of whom trekked uphill for miles to get there. Many spent the night camped at the high-altitude site.
The cause of the crash has yet to be confirmed, but Pokhara Airport spokesman Dev Raj Subedi said on Monday that the aircraft operated by Nepali carrier Tara Air did not catch fire in the air.
Four Indians and two Germans in their fifties were onboard the twin-prop aircraft, along with 16 Nepalis, including a computer engineer, his wife and their two daughters who had just returned from the United States.
The four Indians were a divorced couple and their daughter and son, aged 15 and 22, on a family holiday.
“There was a court order for (the father) to spend time with the family for 10 days every year, so they were taking a trip,” Indian police official Uttam Sonawane told AFP.
Poor safety record
According to the Aviation Safety Network website, the aircraft was made by Canada’s de Havilland and took its first flight more than 40 years ago.
Tara Air is a subsidiary of Yeti Airlines, a privately owned domestic carrier that services many remote destinations across Nepal.
It suffered its last fatal accident in 2016 on the same route when a plane with 23 onboard crashed into a mountainside.
Nepal’s air industry has boomed in recent years, carrying goods and people between hard-to-reach areas as well as foreign trekkers and climbers.
But it has been plagued by poor safety due to insufficient training and maintenance.
The European Union has banned all Nepali airlines from its airspace over safety concerns.
The Himalayan country also has some of the world’s most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even for accomplished pilots.
The weather can also change quickly in the mountains, creating treacherous flying conditions.
In March 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines plane crash-landed near Kathmandu’s notoriously difficult international airport, killing 51 people and seriously injuring 20.
That accident was Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane died when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu airport.
Just two months earlier a Thai Airways aircraft had crashed near the same airport, killing 113 people.