The cause of the crash was not immediately clear. This is reported by the aviation authorities of Nepalthe flight’s commanding pilot made last contact with a nearby air traffic control tower at 10:50 a.m. The plane crashed as it approached to land at Pokhara Airport, Yeti Airlines spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula said.
Photos of the scene appeared to show the plane had split into pieces. Broken chunks of the plane’s fuselage — with the airline’s signature colors exposed — lay distorted on the floor of a smoke-filled canyon surrounded by a major rescue operation.
According to a statement from the airline, 53 Nepalese and 15 foreign nationals were on the flight, including five from India, four from Russia, two from South Korea, one from Argentina, one from Australia, one from France and one from Ireland.
At least six children were on the flight, according to a passenger list shared by the country’s civil aviation authority.
Police, military, fire and airport rescue services participated in the response to the crash site, according to a statement from Yeti Airlines, which identified the downed plane as an ATR 72. Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation also announced the establishment of a committee to investigate the crash. The Nepal Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement that two helicopters had also been deployed to the scene of the crash.
“I am speechless about the crash,” said Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari wrote on Twitter. “I extend my sincere condolences to the passengers and crew who lost their lives and extend my deepest condolences to the family members for their loss.”
ATR, manufacturer of turboprop engine aircraft based in France, tweeted that the accident involved an ATR 72-500 and that its specialists were “fully involved” to support the investigation into the crash. “Our first thoughts are with all individuals affected by this,” the company tweeted. According to ATR’s website, the manufacturer’s model 72-500 seats 68 passengers and has a range of 1,400 kilometers. ATR did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.
It was Nepal’s second plane crash in the past year and Pokhara Airport’s first crash since it opened on Jan. 1.
After a meeting of his cabinet, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal declared that Monday would be celebrated as a national holiday to mourn the victims.
In May, 22 people, including six foreign nationals, died after a flight operated by Tara Air, a subsidiary of Yeti Airlines, crashed into the Himalayan mountainside after taking off from Pokhara’s old airport. prompting the government to launch an investigation. The plane was bound for the tourist town of Jomsom in what was expected to take about 20 minutes.
Sunday’s crash was the deadliest in Nepal since some 30 years ago, according to a database maintained by the Airline Safety Network. In 1992, 167 people died when a Pakistani plane crashed into a rugged Himalayan hillside while attempting to land in a rainstorm at a Kathmandu airport. Two months earlier, a Thai Airways flight also crashed in torrential rain, killing 113 people, including 11 Americans.
The European Union lists all Nepalese airlines on its aviation safety list, which means that EU officials do not consider them to meet international safety standards and they are not allowed to operate in Europe.