All the 23 passengers including three crew members on board the 9N-AHH twin-otter aircraft died as a Jomsom bound flight hit a mountain near Dana area on Wednesday morning, The dead included two Chinese nationals as well.
The debris of the badly burnt aircraft was recovered trapped between the mountain and a tree four hours after the accident, and the search team led by a contingent of the Nepal army joined by police had recovered twenty bodies by the evening.
The aircraft that belonged to Tara Air, a subsidiary of the Yeti Airlines group, had taken off from Pokhara, a well-know tourist spot, around 7:50 am, and its search began after it failed to arrive at Jomsom that normally takes 20 minutes to cover.
Airlines sources said the flight clearance was given as the weather at the start and destination points was normal .
Official sources said the search for other victims was hampered by heavy snow fall , and will continue as soon as the weather condition allows.
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Pokhara -Jomsom route in the past few years has proved to be accident prone as it consists of narrow valley with strong wind. Ananda Pokharel, minister for culture, tourism and civil aviation, said the wreckage was found in Solighopte forest.
The 23 people on board included 18 Nepalese citizens, including two children, and two foreigners, apart from three crew members. The aircraft caught fire after it crashed, according to a search and rescue team present at the site of the accident.
Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal officials said that the reason for the crash is yet to be probed. Residents in the area said they saw a huge explosion and fire in the remote area. A preliminary investigation has suggested that low visibility due to a cloud of dust shrouding the area following dry landslides in Mount Annapurna might have caused the crash.
According to Home Ministry officials, there were dust particles in seven villages around the site in the district.
Three helicopters were dispatched from Kathmandu to locate the aircraft while Nepal Army, Armed Police Force and Nepal Police personnel were also mobilised. In Nepal, air travel is hugely popular as there is only a limited road network. Many communities, particularly in the mountains, are accessible only on foot or by air.Since 1949 — the year the first aircraft landed in Nepal — there have been over 70 crashes involving planes and helicopters, in which over 700 people have been killed. In 2013, the EU banned all Nepalese airlines from flying there. WIth PTI Inputs