UK team to probe Nepalese air crash
Air accident investigators from the UK are heading to Nepal to investigate the plane crash which killed seven Britons, as reports emerged that it may have been caused by pilot error.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said it was sending two staff to assist local authorities probing the disaster which in total killed 19 people.
The Dornier twin-engine propeller plane crashed two minutes after take-off from Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport, with initial reports suggesting a bird strike as a cause. However, Nepalese officials are reported to have said they believe it was a pilot error which caused it to come down.
In a short statement on its website, the AAIB said: "The AAIB is sending two investigators to assist the Nepal investigation into the recent accident near Kathmandu airport."
The British group, who arrived in Nepal on Wednesday and were due to begin trekking in the Himalayas yesterday, were travelling with Hampshire-based travel company Explore Worldwide.
They were named as Raymond Eagle, 58, from Macclesfield, Cheshire, Timothy Oakes, 57, from Winwick, near Warrington, and his friend Stephen Holding, 60, from Stoke-on-Trent.
Also killed were Vincent Kelly, 50, from Lostock, Bolton, and his brother Darren, 45, who moved from Bolton to the village of Isle of Whithorn in southern Galloway a few years ago, Christopher Davey, 51, from Northampton, and lawyer Benjamin Ogden, 27, from London.
Mr Holding's wife Maggie said her husband and his friend Mr Oakes had been planning to trek around the areas of the Everest base camp. In a statement released by Staffordshire Police, she said: "Steve always loved being in the mountains. He had done a lot of work with Peak Pursuits taking youngsters on Duke of Edinburgh activities."
Mr Ogden's girlfriend Stephanie Illingworth told The Times: "He was my soulmate, my best friend, my everything. We were going to get married, have a family and grow old together and I was so lucky to have him in my life - he was perfect," she told the paper, adding: "My whole world has now been turned upside down because he was my entire universe."
The plane, belonging to Nepal's domestic airline Sita Air, crashed at about 6.15am local time. It was heading east towards Lukla, the gateway to Mount Everest and a popular destination for trekkers. Five Chinese people, three Nepalese passengers and four crew members were also killed.