Kathmandu: A small plane with 19 people on board, most of them foreign tourists returning from a trip to view Mount Everest, crashed in bad weather near Kathmandu on Sunday, government officials said.
Kathmandu Airport officials said there were 16 passengers and a crew of three on board the plane. The cause of the crash was not known.
“We had rushed a survivor to the hospital but he died during the treatment. So we have all 19 people dead,” police spokesman Binod Singh told the news agency.
He said ground rescuers had recovered all bodies but helicopters were unable to land near the crash site due to bad weather. “Once the helicopters land, we’ll bring all bodies to Kathmandu and take them to the Teaching Hospital for post-mortem,” Singh said.
An agency photographer, who reached the hilltop crash site through a wet and slippery mud road, saw badly damaged bodies of the victims, mobiles, shoes and other belongings scattered on a slope.
The plane has broken into several pieces and black smoke was rising from the debris, he said.
The Beech aircraft owned by Buddha Air, a private airline, was flying to Kathmandu from a mountain flight to Everest.
The centre is operated by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.
“The plane was returning to Kathmandu from a mountain flight when it crashed,” an official at the Kathmandu airport Rescue Coordination Centre, who refused to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said.
“Rescue officials have reached the site and details are awaited,” he said. He said the plane had crashed at Kotdanda, about 5 km (3 miles) south of the Nepali capital.
There were 10 Indian and three other foreign tourists, three Nepali passengers and three Nepali crew members, he said. “One person is reported to have been rescued. But I have no details,” the official said.
Kathmandu and its surrounding hills were enveloped in late monsoon clouds early on Sunday.
The last plane crash in Nepal was in December last year, when a Twin Otter aircraft hit the Himalayan foothills of remote east Nepal, killing all 22 people onboard.
Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountain peaks, including Mount Everest. Tens of thousands of hikers and foreign tourists go to Mount Everest and other trekking routes to see the lofty Himalayan peaks every year. Those who cannot hike the rugged hilly trails to the mountains use mountain flights operated by different airlines to see the Himalayas.
Tourism, a key source of earning for impoverished Nepal, accounts for nearly 4% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employs tens of thousands of people, among the poorest in the world.