- Rajini Vaidyanathan*
- BBC News
January 17, 2023
Anju Khatiwada in the cabin of an airplane
The copilot of the plane that crashed in Nepal on Sunday (15th) lost her husband 16 years ago in another accident involving the same airline.
Anju Khatiwada was the second in command of Yeti Airlines Flight 691, which crashed into a ravine near the resort town of Pokhara.
All 72 people on the plane died, and the accident became the worst air disaster in the Asian country in 30 years.
Khatiwada’s husband, Dipak Pokhrel, also died in the cabin of a crashed Yeti Airlines plane. It was the loss of her thenhusband that prompted Khatiwada to get into aviation.
Alone with her young son, the woman turned the pain of the tragedy into motivation to become a pilot.
“She was a determined woman who stood up for her dreams and fulfilled those of her husband,” said Santosh Sharma, a family member.
Pokhrel was in the cockpit of a Twin Otter plane carrying rice and groceries to the western city of Jumla when the plane crashed and caught fire in June 2006. All nine people on board were killed in the crash.
Four years later, his widow decided to take the same job. After overcoming many obstacles, she was able to travel to the United States for training and joined Yeti Airlines after qualifying.
Tragedy within another tragedy
Khatiwada was one of six women who worked as pilots for the airline. She had an experience of 6,400 flight hours.
Credit, Getty Images
Recovery efforts for the 72 victims of the Yeti Airlines crash continued on Tuesday.
“She was a flight captain and flew solo,” said Sudarshan Bartaula of Yeti Airlines. “She was a brave woman,” he concluded.
Khatiwada remarried and had a second child while building her career as an aviator.
Friends and family said she is a very happy person and loves her job.
That she and her first husband died in this way was a tragedy within a tragedy, family members say.
At the Pokhara crash site, fragments of the plane that crashed on Sunday are still scattered on the banks of the Seti River.
A small piece of the plane rests above the canyon, with windows intact and Yeti Airlines’ green and yellow livery still visible.
The tragedy has reignited debate over flight safety in the Himalayan country, where plane crashes have killed hundreds in recent decades.
Credit, Getty Images
Nepalese authorities are yet to say what may have caused the plane to crash.
Various causes of security vulnerabilities by Nepalese airlines have been highlighted over the years.
Mountainous terrain and often unpredictable and difficulttonavigate weather are often cited as explanations for accidents like last Sunday.
However, experts point to other equally important reasons, such as the age of the aircraft fleet, permissive regulations and poor surveillance.
What caused the crash on Sunday is still unclear.
In front of the Pokhara Hospital, the families of the victims waited for the bodies of their loved ones to be handed over after the autopsies were completed.
One of them, Bhimsen Ban, said he wanted to bring his friend Nira’s body back to his village to be buried there.
Singer Nira Chantyal is among 72 victims of the worst plane tragedy on record in Nepal in 30 years.
Nira Chantyal, 21, was a singer and used to fly Yeti Airlines.
For the middle class, cheap air travel has become an affordable and popular way to travel around the mountains.
Nira, who was transferring to Kathmandu, was traveling on this flight to perform at a music festival in Pokhara.
“She was a very talented artist and used to sing folk songs. She often sang spontaneously,” said Bhimsen, her eyes red from crying.
“I have no words to describe the loss,” he concluded.
Additional reporting by Rajneesh Bhandari and Andrew Clarance.