Flight and cockpit recorders recovered from deadly Nepal plane crash

Search teams recovered the flight data and cockpit voice recorders of a passenger plane that crashed into a ravine on approach to a new airport in the Himalayan foothills, officials said, as investigators sought to determine the cause of Nepal’s deadliest plane crash in 30 years.

At least 69 of the 72 people on board were killed, and officials believe the three missing are also dead.

Rescuers combed for them the debris scattered in a 300-meter-deep ravine.

Many of the Sunday flight passengers returned to Pokhara, although the city is also popular with tourists as it is the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit trek.

As of Monday night, relatives and friends were still gathered outside a local hospital, some shouting at officials to speed up the autopsy so they could hold funerals for loved ones.

Later, some received the bodies of relatives.

It’s still not clear what caused the crash, which took place less than a minute’s flight from the airport on a mild day with little wind.

Buildings, streets and greenery can be seen below in footage taken by a passenger from a window as the plane came in for landing.

Sonu Jaiswal’s video then features a violent jerk and a series of jerky frames accompanied by screams before flames fill the screen.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said the plane last made contact with the airport, which started operating just two weeks ago, from near the Seti Gorge.

Plane crash in Nepal
Nepal’s national flag flies at half-mast at Tribhuvan International Airport (Bikram Rai/AP).

A witness who took footage of the plane’s descent said it looked like a normal landing until the plane suddenly made a left turn.

“I saw that and I was shocked,” said Diwas Bohora.

“I thought everything will be finished here today, if it crashes, I’ll be dead too.”

After the crash, red flames erupted and the ground shook violently, Mr Bohora said.

“When I saw that scene, I was scared,” he added.

Amit Singh, a veteran pilot and founder of India’s Safety Matters Foundation, said Mr Bohora’s video appeared to show a stall, a situation in which an aircraft loses lift, particularly likely at low airspeeds.

The twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft, operated by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, completed the 27-minute flight from the capital Kathmandu to Pokhara, 125 miles west.

It was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreigners, as well as four crew members, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said in a statement.

Jagannath Niraula, a spokesman for the agency, said the flight recorders would be turned over to investigators.

Yeti Airlines spokeswoman Pemba Sherpa confirmed that both the flight data and the cockpit voice recorders were found.

Nepal is home to eight of the 14 highest mountains in the world, including Mount Everest.

A pilot who routinely flies an ATR 72-500 plane from India to Nepal said the region’s topography, with its mountain peaks and narrow valleys, increases the risk of accidents and sometimes requires pilots to fly by sight rather than relying on instruments.

The pilot, who works for a private Indian airline and insisted on anonymity due to company policy, described the ATR 72-500 as an “unyielding aircraft” unless the pilot is highly skilled and familiar with the region’s terrain and wind speeds.

Hundreds of people have gathered outside the Pokhara Academy of Health and Science, Western Hospital, where the bodies are being kept.

Bimala Bhenderi said she was planning to meet up with boyfriend Tribhuban Paudel on Tuesday when she heard his plane crashed.

“I’m so sad, I still can’t believe it,” she said through tears.

Bikash Jaiswal said he could only identify his wife’s brother from the ring he wore and he has yet to tell his wife, who has just given birth to their daughter.

Sanjay Jaiswal, who worked as a marketing agent for a private pharmaceutical company in Kathmandu, flew to Pokhara for the birth.

More than 24 hours after the crash, his body lay in the same hospital where his niece was born.

“He was a hardworking person and now there is no one in his family who could earn anything,” said Mr. Bikash.

Park Dae-seong, a minister and spokesman for the Won Buddhist order, confirmed the deaths of Arun Paudel and his daughter Prasiddi on Monday.

Arun Paudel, 47, had worked as a police officer in Nepal before being initiated into the religion by his brother.

Plane crash in Nepal
People watch a candlelight vigil (Bikram Rai/AP)

He studied religion at a South Korean university for years before becoming a pastor in 2009.

He then returned to Nepal and founded a school in Lumbini province in 2013, where children received English, Korean and information technology classes.

Mr Park said Paudel is returning to Nepal to work at the school, Vishow Ekata Academy.

The Civil Aviation Authority said 41 people have been identified.

Gyan Khadka, a district police spokesman, said the bodies would be handed over to the family after officers completed the autopsy.

The ATR 72 aircraft type has been used by airlines worldwide for short regional flights since the late 1980s.

In Taiwan, two accidents involving ATR 72-500 and ATR 72-600 aircraft in 2014 and 2015 resulted in the aircraft being grounded for some time.

ATR identified the plane involved in Sunday’s crash as ATR 72-500 in a tweet.

According to aircraft tracking data from, the aircraft was 15 years old and “equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data”.

According to records on, it was previously flown by India’s Kingfisher Airlines and Thailand’s Nok Air before Yeti took over in 2019.

Plane crash in Nepal
Security officers stand guard in front of a hospital morgue (Yunish Gurung/AP)

ATR did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the Safety Matters Foundation, there have been 42 fatal plane crashes in Nepal since 1946.

Sunday’s crash is the country’s deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people on board a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it plowed into a hillside while attempting to land in Kathmandu.

The European Union has banned airlines from Nepal from flying into the 27-nation bloc since 2013, citing weak safety standards as the reason.

In 2017, the International Civil Aviation Organization cited improvements in Nepal’s aviation sector, but the EU continues to call for administrative reforms.

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