Plane crash in Nepal: At least 68 killed when Yeti Airlines plane crashes near Pokhara city

Kathmandu, Nepal

A plane crash near Pokhara city in central Nepal killed at least 68 people on Sunday, a government official said.

Seventy-two people — four crew members and 68 passengers — were on board Nepal’s Yeti Airlines ATR 72 plane when it crashed, Yeti Airlines spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula said. Thirty-seven were men, 25 were women, three were children and three were infants, the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority reported.

The searches were called off after dark, army spokesman Krishna Prasad Bhandari said, and will resume on Monday morning. Hundreds of first responders were still trying to locate the remaining four individuals before then, Bhandari said.

At least one baby is among the dead, according to the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority.

Sunday’s incident was the third-deadliest crash in the history of the Himalayan nation, according to data from the Aviation Safety Network. The only incidents that killed more people occurred in July and September 1992. Those crashes involved Thai Airways and Pakistan International planes and killed 113 and 167 people respectively.

Rescue workers gather at the scene of a plane crash in Pokhara.

Authorities said there were 72 people on board when the plane crashed.

The civil aviation authority said 53 of the passengers and all four crew members were Nepalese. There were also fifteen foreigners on the plane: five were Indian, four Russian and two Korean. The rest were individual citizens of Australia, Argentina, France and Ireland.

The plane was en route from the capital Kathmandu to Pokhara, the country’s second most populous city and a gateway to the Himalayas, the country’s state media, The Rising Nepal, reported. Pokahara is located some 129 kilometers (80 mi) west of Kathmandu.

The plane was last in contact with Pokhara airport at about 10:50 a.m. local time, about 18 minutes after takeoff. It then went down into the nearby Seti River Gorge. First responders from the Nepalese army and several police departments have been deployed to the crash site and are conducting a rescue operation, civil aviation authorities said in a statement.

A video clip on social media appeared to show the moments before the plane crashed on Sunday. The film, which appears to be shot from the roof of a house in Pokhara, shows the plane flying low over a populated area and rolling on its side before the plane is no longer visible in the clip. A loud explosion can be heard at the end of the video.

CNN cannot independently verify the clip’s authenticity.

A five-member committee has also been formed to investigate the cause of the crash. The quintet must report to the government within 45 days, said Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bishnu Paudel.

Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said he was “deeply saddened by the sad and tragic accident”.

“I sincerely appeal to the security personnel, all agencies of the Nepalese government and the general public to begin an effective rescue effort,” Dahal said on Twitter.

The government has declared Monday a public holiday to mourn the victims, a spokesman for the prime minister said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Russian President have both expressed their condolences, as has Australia’s ambassador to Nepal.

Nepal’s Yeti Airlines said it canceled all regular flights on Monday, Jan. 16, in mourning for the victims of the crash.

The Himalayan country of Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Everest, has a record number of aircraft accidents. The weather can change suddenly and airstrips are usually located in mountainous areas that are difficult to access.

Last May, a Tara Air flight carrying 22 people crashed into a Himalayan mountain at an altitude of about 14,500 feet. That was the country’s 19th plane crash in 10 years and the 10th fatal in the same period, according to the Aviation Safety Network database.

The aircraft involved in Sunday’s crash was an ATR 72-500, a twin-prop turbojet commonly used in the Asia-Pacific region, especially among low-cost carriers. Aircraft made by ATR, a partnership between the European aviation companies Airbus and Leonardo, usually have a good reputation.

However, they have been involved in crashes before. Two ATR 72s operated by now-defunct Taiwanese airline Transasia were involved in fatal crashes in July 2014 and February 2015. The second prompted Taiwanese authorities to temporarily ground all ATR 72s registered on the island.

In all, the various models of the ATR 72 were involved in 11 fatal incidents before Sunday’s crash in Nepal, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

ATR said in a statement on Sunday that it was made aware of the accident.

“Our first thoughts are with all individuals affected by this,” the statement said. “ATR specialists are fully deployed to support both the investigation and the client.”

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