KATHMANDU — A small plane flying 19 people towards Mount Everest crashed on the outskirts of the Nepalese capital on Friday, killing everyone on board including seven Britons and five Chinese, police said.
The Sita Air Dornier craft had just taken off from Kathmandu airport and was headed to the small town of Lukla, a gateway to the world’s highest mountain, when it plunged into the banks of a river near the city.
National police spokesman Binod Singh said there were no survivors.
“The crash has caused the death of 12 foreigners, including seven British and five Chinese tourists. The remaining seven, including three crew members, are Nepalese,” Singh told AFP.
The spokesman said that the plane had crashed less than one kilometre (half a mile) from the airport at around 6:30 am (0045 GMT), next to the Manohara river.
“The pilots seem to have tried to land it safely on the banks of the river but unfortunately the plane caught fire.”
Police had initially said five Japanese, two Italians and a Briton were killed in the crash but later corrected the information, which had been given in error by an officer at the crash site.
Dozens of army personnel had arrived at the crash site, said Nepalese army spokesman Ramindra Chhetri, and were battling to bring the blaze under control.
Local television channels showed dozens of soldiers and police officers picking through the smouldering wreckage of the aircraft with a large crowd of shocked bystanders watching.
A number of badly burned bodies were laid in a line a few metres from the craft’s shattered fuselage.
Tulasha Pokharel, a 26-year-old housewife who lives near to the crash site, told AFP she was among the first on the scene.
“We could hear people inside the aircraft screaming, but we couldn’t throw water at the plane to put out the fire because we were scared that the engines were about to explode,” she said.
Nepal has a poor road network and large numbers of tourists, pilgrims and professional climbers often rely on the country’s 16 domestic airlines and 49 airports to reach remote areas.
The accident is the sixth fatal air crash in Nepal in less than two years and raises new questions about the safety record of the country’s numerous small airlines.
Aircraft and pilots often have to contend with bad weather and difficult landing strips in the Himalayan nation.
In May, 15 people were killed when a small Agni Air plane taking tourists to a treacherous high-altitude airport near Nepal’s Annapurna mountain region ploughed into the ground.
In September last year a small plane taking tourists on a sightseeing trip around Everest crashed into a hillside near the Nepalese Kathmandu, also killing all 19 people on board.
The Buddha Air Beechcraft plane, carrying 10 Indians, two Americans, one Japanese citizen and three local passengers, came down in heavy rain and fog at Godavari, about 10 kilometres from the capital.