Flight tragedy | 

Cries for help heard after plane carrying 72 people, including one Irishman, crashes in Nepal

Eyewitnesses reported hearing cries for help from within the fiery wreckage on the outskirts of the city of Pokhara

A family member of a victim of the aircraft that crashed in Pokhara is escorted as she mourns at the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: Reuters/Dinesh Shrestha© REUTERS

Members of Nepal Army carry the body of the victim of a plane crash at the crash site of an aircraft carrying 72 people in Pokhara in western Nepal. Photo: Reuters/Rohit Giri© REUTERS

People gathered at the crash site near Pokhara, Nepal. Photo: Naresh Giri via Reuters© NARESH GIRI via REUTERS

The plane is captured in this picture moments before it crashed

Upendra Man Singh, Sheikh Saaliq and Paul HylandSunday World

A plane carrying 72 people, among them an Irishman, was seen spinning violently before crashing nose-first into a gorge and bursting into flames in Nepal.

Eyewitnesses reported hearing cries for help from within the fiery wreckage on the outskirts of the city of Pokhara, a destination popular with tourists trekking in the Himalayas.

Of the 72 people on board, 69 have been confirmed dead while the remaining three have been listed as missing.

Irishman Ruan Calum Crighton was listed as being on the flight.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was “aware of reports of an Irish citizen in an aeroplane crash in Nepal” and it “stands ready to provide consular assistance, if requested”.

Video posted on social media showed the plane tilting heavily as it flew low above houses.

Members of Nepal Army carry the body of the victim of a plane crash at the crash site of an aircraft carrying 72 people in Pokhara in western Nepal. Photo: Reuters/Rohit Giri© REUTERS

Later, images from the ground showed burning debris and smoke rising from a hillside in the gorge of the Seti River, several miles from Pokhara International Airport.

A Nepal army spokesman said they “expect to recover more bodies” as rescue operations were due to resume this morning.

The plane had made a 27-minute flight from the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu and was descending into Pokhara when the disaster unfolded.

A witness, Gaurav Gurung, said he saw the aircraft spinning violently in the air after it began descending to land. He said the plane fell nose-first towards its left and crashed into the gorge.

Khum Bahadur Chhetri said he watched from the roof of his house as the flight approached. “I saw the plane trembling, moving left and right, and then suddenly it nosedived and it went into the gorge,” he said.

Local resident Bishnu Tiwari, who rushed to the crash site to help search for bodies, said the rescue efforts were hampered by thick smoke and a raging fire.

“The flames were so hot that we couldn’t go near the wreckage. I heard a man crying for help, but because of the flames and smoke we couldn’t help him,” Mr Tiwari said.

People gathered at the crash site near Pokhara, Nepal. Photo: Naresh Giri via Reuters© NARESH GIRI via REUTERS

Another local resident, Arun Tamu, said: “Half of the plane is on the hillside. The other half has fallen into the gorge of the Seti River.”

It was not immediately clear what caused the accident and the “weather was clear”, said Jagannath Niroula, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.

The aircraft last made contact with the airport from near Seti Gorge at 10.50am before crashing. The twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft, operated by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreign nationals, as well as four crew members.

Along with Mr Crighton, there were five Indian, four Russian, two South Korean passengers on board, as well as one each from Australia, Argentina and France.

Among the victims of the crash was Elena Banduro, a 33-year-old travel blogger from Russia. Shortly before taking off, she posted a message to her social media followers saying: “Go to Nepal.”

Images and videos shared on social media showed plumes of smoke billowing from the crash site, just a couple of kilometres away from Pokhara International Airport. The aircraft’s fuselage was split into multiple parts that were scattered down the gorge.

Tek Bahadur KC, a senior administrative officer in the Kaski district, said he expected rescue workers to find more bodies at the bottom of the gorge.

Firefighters carried bodies, some burned beyond recognition, to hospitals where grief-stricken relatives had assembled.

At Kathmandu airport, family members were distraught as they were escorted in, and at times exchanged heated words with officials as they waited for information.

Nepalese prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has set up a panel to investigate the accident.

”The incident was tragic. The full force of the Nepalese army, police has been deployed for rescue,” he said.

Many tourists take the 30-minute flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara as the latter is the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, a popular Himalayan hiking trail, as well as being a hub for extreme sports such as paragliding and bungee jumping.

The city’s new international airport began operations only two weeks ago.

The type of plane involved, the ATR 72, has been used by airlines around the world for short regional flights.

The plane is captured in this picture moments before it crashed

Introduced in the late 1980s by a French and Italian partnership, the aircraft model has been involved in several deadly accidents over the years.

In Taiwan, two earlier accidents involving ATR 72-500 and ATR 72-600 aircraft happened just months apart.

According to plane tracking data from flightradar24.com, the aircraft was 15 years old and was “equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data”.

Nepal – home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest – has a history of air crashes.

According to the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety database, there have been 42 fatal plane crashes in Nepal since 1946.

Yesterday’s crash is Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it ploughed into a hill as it tried to land in Kathmandu.


Today's Headlines

More World News

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos