The US State Department has confirmed that two American citizens and two lawful permanent residents were among the 72 dead in the Nepal plane crash.
No Americans were initially mentioned on Sunday’s Yeti flight, but the State Department confirmed the news on Wednesday. Their identities have not been made public.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic Yeti Airlines crash over the weekend, which killed 72 people, including two US citizens and two lawful permanent residents,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“Our thoughts are with the families of those on board, the United States stands ready to support Nepal in any way we can at this difficult hour,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
The crash, which was the deadliest in Nepal in the past 30 years, killed all 72 passengers after it fell into a ravine on landing near Pokhara International Airport in the Himalayan foothills.
Among the passengers were those hailing from Nepal, Argentina, Australia, France, Ireland, Korea, Russia and India.
Two US citizens and two lawful permanent residents were killed in the plane crash in Nepal on Sunday, State Department spokesman Ned Price (pictured) confirmed. “We are deeply saddened by the tragic Yeti Airlines crash over the weekend”
Although little is known about the crash, co-pilot Anju Khatiwada, 44 – who was US-trained – had logged more than 6,400 flight hours and had previously flown the popular tourist route from the capital, Kathmandu, to the country’s second-biggest city, Pokhara .
Kamal KC, the flight’s captain, had more than 21,900 flight hours.
However, Jagannath Niroula, a spokesman for the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority, said Thursday that the new airport does not have a working instrument landing system to guide planes to the runway.
He said the landing system would only be operational from February 26 to 56 days after the airport began operations on January 1.
An instrument landing system helps aircraft fly safely when the pilot is unable to maintain visual contact with surrounding obstacles and the ground, mainly due to weather conditions or at night. Pilots can also fly by sight instead of relying on instruments.
Aviation safety experts said it reflected the Himalayan country’s poor air safety record, although the cause of the accident has not been determined.
Pilots say mountainous Nepal, where in-flight visibility problems are common, can be a difficult area to fly, but conditions at the time of the crash were good, with weak winds, clear skies and temperatures well above freezing.
While it’s still not clear what caused the crash, some aviation experts say ground-captured video of the plane’s final moments suggests it went into a stall, although it’s unclear why.
The crash (pictured) killed all 72 passengers after falling into a ravine during landing
Half the plane was hanging in the ravine after the crash. It was the deadliest in Nepal in 30 years
Although the cause of the crash has not been confirmed, the new airport did not have a working instrument landing system to guide aircraft to the runway. The landing system would not work until February 26, according to the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority
Amit Singh, a veteran pilot and founder of India’s Safety Matters Foundation, said the lack of an instrument landing system or navigational aids could be a “contributory cause” of the crash, pointing to a “notoriously poor aviation safety culture in Nepal.”
“Flying in Nepal becomes difficult when you don’t have navigational aids, and it puts an extra workload on the pilot if he has problems during a flight,” Singh said. “The lack of an instrument landing system only confirms once again that Nepal’s aviation security culture is inadequate.”
Yeti Airlines said the plane’s cockpit voice recorder would be analyzed on site, but the flight data recorder would be sent to France. Both were picked up on Monday.
Hundreds of rescue workers searched the slope where the plane crashed before confirming the deaths.
Local television showed thick black smoke billowing from the crash site as rescue workers and crowds gathered around the wreckage of the plane on Sunday.
Co-pilot Anju Khatiwada, 44, who was trained in the US, had logged more than 6,400 flight hours and had previously flown the popular tourist route from the capital, Kathmandu, to the country’s second largest city, Pokhara
The plane pitched sideways as it attempted to land near the airport on Sunday
Local television showed rescuers scrambling around broken parts of the plane. Part of the ground near the crash site was scorched and flames could be seen.
“The plane is on fire,” Police Officer Ajay KC said earlier this week, adding that rescue workers were struggling to reach the site in a ravine between two hills near the tourist town’s airport.
The plane made contact with the airport from Seti Gorge at 10:50 a.m. local time, the aviation authority said in a statement. “Then it crashed.”
“Half of the plane is on a hill,” said Arun Tamu, a local resident who told Portal he reached the site minutes after the plane crashed. “The other half fell into the gorge of the Seti River.”
Khum Bahadur Chhetri said he watched the plane approach from the roof of his house.
“I saw the plane shaking, moving left and right, and then suddenly its nose dived and it fell into the ravine,” Chhetri told Portal.
Mourning relatives (pictured) of victims of Sunday’s plane crash grew impatient on Wednesday as they waited for authorities to perform the autopsy
“It’s been four days but no one is listening to us,” Madan Kumar Jaiswal said while waiting outside Tribhuvan University’s Institute of Medicine on Wednesday (pictured: rescuers carry a victim away from the crash site).
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda met with bereaved families on Thursday and asked hospital authorities to expedite the remaining autopsies of some victims so their bodies can be returned to their families.
Authorities said it took time to identify several badly burned bodies.
Mourning relatives of victims of Sunday’s plane crash grew impatient on Wednesday as they waited for authorities to perform the autopsy.
“It’s been four days but no one is listening to us,” Madan Kumar Jaiswal said while waiting outside Tribhuvan University’s Institute of Medicine on Wednesday.
He said he wants the autopsy to be done quickly so families can receive the bodies of their loved ones.
“They say they’re going to do a DNA test. My daughter is dead,” said Ashok Rayamagi, father of another victim.
The twin-engine ATR 72-500 plane was flying from the capital Kathmandu to Pokhara, 125 miles west, when it crashed into a ravine on approach to the airport. The crash site is about a mile from the runway at an altitude of about 2,700 feet.
The crash is Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, when a Pakistan International Airlines plane crashed into a hill while attempting to land in Kathmandu, killing all 167 people on board. According to the Safety Matters Foundation, there have been 42 fatal plane crashes in Nepal since 1946.
A 2019 safety report by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said the country’s “hostile topography” and “varied weather patterns” were the top threats to flights in the country.
The European Union has banned airlines from Nepal from flying to the 27-nation bloc since 2013, citing weak safety standards. In 2017, the International Civil Aviation Organization cited improvements in Nepal’s aviation sector, but the EU continues to call for administrative reforms.