Kathmandu: All 19 people, including seven Britons and five Chinese, aboard a small plane flying trekkers towards Mount Everest were killed today when it crashed after a bird hit as soon as it took off from the Nepalese capital, turning into a ball of fire.
Sixteen passengers and three crew members who were heading towards Lukla, gateway to the world`s highest peak, for trekking in the mountainous region, were killed when the Sita Airways-owned Dornier aircraft crashed two minutes after it took off at 6:15 am (local time) from the Tribhuvan International Airport, officials said.
Among the 16 passengers of the Dornier Aircraft 9N AHA D228 crash were seven Britons, five Chinese and four Nepalese, according to the Rescue Coordination Committee of the Tribhuvan International Airport.
The British group, aged between 27 and 60, included two brothers, two close friends and an Oxford University graduate who was travelling alone, British media reported.
The three crew members were Nepalese.
"Immediately after the take-off, the air traffic controllers noticed the aircraft making unusual maneuvers. When the controller asked the pilot about it, he said the plane had struck a bird," Manager of Tribhuvan International Airport Ratish Chandra Lal Suman said.
"Shortly after, the aircraft crashed. All the bodies have been sent to hospital for post-mortem examinations," he said.
The police, army and airport staff rushed to the accident site for carrying out rescue work soon after the crash.
Eyewitnesses were quoted as saying that they heard screaming and saw them waving their arms as the plane went into a nose dive and turned into a ball of fire.
The plane caught fire as soon as it took off and crashed
on the banks of the Manahara river in Koteshwor region, near a slum area, just 2-3 km south of the airport, the officials said.
Though the weather was clear in the morning, the pilot had reported some problems to the air controller after two minutes of the take-off, Suman said, adding the plane probably was trying to get back to the airport before it met with the fatal accident.
Nepalese Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai paid tributes to those killed in the crash. "I make commitment to take necessary steps immediately not to allow such tragic incidents to repeat," he said.
The crew members were identified as Captain Bijaya Tandukar, co-Pilot Takeshi Thapa and airhostess Ruja Shakya.
Nepal has a poor record in road and air accidents, and today`s crash was the sixth in the country in less than two years.
Earlier this year in May, Agni Air`s Dornier Aircraft crashed near Jomsom airport in the north of Kathmandu killing 15 people. Those killed in that accident included 13 Indian pilgrims who were heading towards a famous pilgrimage site, Muktinath, near Tibet border.
In September last year, a small Beach Aircraft belonging to Buddha Air, carrying tourists on a mountain flight trip around Everest, crashed into a hillside at Godavari village near Kathmandu, killing 19 people, including 10 Indians.
Meanwhile, Nepal government has set up a five member
committee headed by former tourism secretary Nagendra Prasad Ghimire to investigate the crash.
The committee has been asked to submit the report within three months.