Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Britons killed in Nepal plane crash

A Nepalese soldier and firefighter display a British passport and some US dollars found at the aircraft crash site in Nepal (AP)
The remains of a Sita Air plane at the crash site near Katmandu, Nepal (AP/Niranjan Shrestha)
A Nepalese rescue worker carries the flight data recorder of a Sita Air plane at the crash site near Katmandu, Nepal (AP/Niranjan Shrestha)

A group of British tourists are among 19 people who died in a plane crash in Nepal.

Seven Britons are believed to have been killed along with five Chinese people and three passengers and four crew members from the Himalayan country.

The British ambassador to Nepal, John Tucknott, told Sky News: "I can confirm that British nationals are involved although I cannot confirm the exact number at the present time. Regretfully all those on board perished. Our thoughts at the moment are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives."

The twin-engine propeller plane crashed shortly after take-off near Nepal's capital, Kathmandu. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it was "urgently" seeking to confirm the number of British casualties and their identities.

Asked about the cause of the crash, Mr Tucknott said: "This is not the time to speculate, obviously there will be an air crash investigation and clearly we will have to wait to see what they find caused the air crash."

He spoke after visiting Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, where the bodies of those who were killed were taken.

A spokeswoman for local travel company Sherpa Adventures said the British group had arrived in Nepal on Wednesday and were due to begin trekking today until October 16.

The plane, belonging to Nepal's domestic airline Sita Air, was heading east towards Lukla, the gateway to Mount Everest and a popular destination for trekkers. It crashed near the Manohara River to the south west of the city. Witnesses say it burst into flames and came down in a field.

The pilot reported trouble two minutes after take-off, and Kathmandu airport official Ratish Chandra Suman said the plane appeared to have been trying to turn back to the airport. Witnesses said they heard screaming coming from inside the plane before it crashed and said it was already on fire before it hit the ground.

Harimaya Tamang, who lives near the crash site, said: "We thought the pilot was trying to force land because it was on fire and the river area had open space to land. The plane hit the ground, bounced once but it did not break. The plane was already on fire, the local people rushed with buckets and tried to put out the flames but it was too hot and people could not get close enough."

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