Nepal air crash probe begins

Police have handed over to accident investigators the black box data recorder of a plane that crashed on the outskirts of the Nepalese capital, killing all 19 people on board.

The twin-propeller Sita Air plane had just taken off from Kathmandu and was headed to Lukla, gateway to Mt Everest, when it plunged into the banks of a river near the city's airport around daybreak.

Among the dead were seven Britons, five Chinese and seven local passengers and crew.

National police spokesman Binod Singh said it had been difficult to identify the bodies and DNA tests may be carried out before they are returned to relatives.

The British group, the youngest of whom was 27 and the oldest 60, had been due to go on a 16-day trek to three high passes and the Everest Base Camp.

Although the exact cause of the crash is still unclear, the manager of Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu said the pilot had reported hitting a bird of prey, thought to be a vulture or kite, moments before the crash.

Witnesses described hearing the screams of passengers and seeing flames coming from one of the plane's wings moments before it hit the ground.

The crash was the sixth fatal air accident in Nepal in the past two years and has raised fresh questions about safety in the impoverished Himalayan country, home to challenging weather, treacherous landing strips and lax safety standards.


- Herald on Sunday

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