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19 Killed In Nepal Plane Crash

  • RFE/RL

A plane heading for the Everest region has crashed on the outskirts of the Nepalese capital, killing all 19 people on board.

Officials said that the Sita Air craft came down just minutes after taking off from Kathmandu airport.

"It [the Dornier aircraft] carried 16 passengers and 3 crew members -- all confirmed dead," Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, the general manager of Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal, told journalists at the airplane crash site close to the airport. "All the dead bodies are being collected. The event will be investigated."

Reports say that seven Britons, five Chinese tourists, and seven Nepali nationals were on the twin-engine propelled plane. The plane was on its way to Lukla, a hub for trekking in the Everest region.

Officials said the aircraft crashed into a river bank near the airport and caught fire. Witnesses told local media that they had seen passengers waving through the windows for help as the aircraft caught fire.

The cause of the crash is not yet known but flying conditions were said to be clear at the time. Airport authorities say the plane may have come down after colliding with birds.

Aviation accidents involving small aircraft are not uncommon in mountainous Nepal.

In May, 15 people were killed when a plane crashed trying to land at an airport in the north of the country.

According to Toya Dahal, a journalist who specializes in civil aviation, Nepal has witnessed 74 aviation accidents that have left more than 700 people dead since 1949, with human error often being blamed.

Nepal's Civil Aviation Authority has come under strong criticism for failing to enforce adequate monitoring.

With reporting by AP, AFP