KATHMANDU/MAKAWANPUR: All 14 persons on board were charred to death after Agni Air’s 9N AHE — German-made Dornier 228 — crashed into a small valley south of Kathmandu at 8.05 this morning.
On board the flight were eight Nepali citizens — five passengers and three crew members — and six foreign nationals — four US citizens, one Briton and one Japanese.
THT Makwanpur correspondent Prakash Dahal quoted a local resident, Ram Bahadur Gole, as saying: “The plane circled in the air before it crashed into pieces on the open ground near local Bachche Thakur Primary School of Bastipur, Shikarpur VDC in Makwanpur.”
The small passenger air-craft German-built Dornier turboprop was the single plane flying to Lukla, where hundreds of passengers have been stranded due to bad weather for nine days.
The passenger plane took off at 7.04 am after the Air Traffic Control in Kathmandu gave clearance. The weather in Tenzing-Hillary airport in Lukla was reported to be normal, but deteriorated suddenly when the flight was about halfway to its destination.
The double engine aircraft decided to divert back to Kathmandu after the weather condition in Lukla airport deteriorated, according to ATC. “The Lukla tower informed the flight crew at 7.16 am that the airport was ‘covered up’ by the sudden change in weather,” ATC’s shift manager Purushottam Shakya told The Himalayan Times. “At that time, the plane was 56 km east of Kathmandu.”
As flights approach the Lukla airport, the crew shift to Visual Flight Rules, which require a minimum visibility of 5,000 metres. This was the reason the captain decided to return to Kathmandu, where flights can land and take off under Instrumental Flight Rules, which require a minimum visibility of 1,600 metres and are safer, Shakya said.
The captain took a U-turn and went down south making a 32-km arc before making a beeline for Kathmandu for landing, according to Shakya. The last contact the ATC had with the captain was at 7.26 am when the flight was about 20 km east of the Nopen Point, which is 25 km south of the Kathmandu Airport and is the sole entry point for IFR flights. “The visibility at that time was 2,000 metres, which is more than enough for IFR flights,” Shakya claimed. “Shortly afterwards, a Buddha Air flight landed in Kathmandu airport, so the weather condition here was good enough for landing.”
Shakya was clueless on why the crew flew south after the plane lost contact with the ATC in Kathmandu. The captain had reported that the plane’s generator had failed, but the engine was alright, according to Shakya.
1. Laxman Prakash (Lucky) Shah, pilot
2. Sophia Singh, co-pilot
3. Sara Sherpa, air hostess
4. Ishwar Rijal, 28-year-old Nepali from Satyadevi, Dhading
5. Prakash Amgai, 32-year-old Nepali from Bunkot, Gorkha
6. Asbani Rai, 23-year-old Nepali from Waku, Solukhumbu
7. P Sherpa, Nepali
8. P Bhote, Nepali
9. Hayashi Yuki, 19-year-old Japanese from Kanagawa city
10. Irina Shekhets, 30-year-old American
11. Levzi Cardoso, 50-year-old American
12. Heather Finch, 40-year-old American
13. Kendra Fallon, 19-year-old American
14. Taylor Jeremy, 31-year-old Briton from Cape Town
Probe panel formed
Kathmandu: The government on Tuesday formed a five-member panel led by aeronautic expert Kumar Prasad Upadhyaya Chalise to investigate into the crash. The panel comprises deputy director of Civil Aviation Authority Rajan Pokharel, captain of Sita Air Rajendraman Shakya, engineer of Buddha Air Sharada Bhakta Rajbhandari and Under Secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation Suresh Acharya. The panel has to submit its fact-finding report within 65 days.
Close shave for three!
KATHMANDU: Missing the Agni Air flight today befell on three passengers like divine providence.
Kabi Rai, NL Sherpa and an unidentified foreigner reached the airport late, missed the flight — and luckily cheated death that was otherwise inevitable.
Kathmandu traffic must have been a hassle for Rai (39), a tour guide, all the time, but not today of course. Already late while packing and loading his luggage, the otherwise traffic ‘nuisance’ today turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Rai.
The next flight of the same airlines he boarded for Lukla an hour later too had some technical glitches as it started to move on the runway. The crew members told all the passengers that the flight was cancelled due to bad weather and asked them to get off.
According to Rai, Sherpa, mother of an infant, also missed the flight, as she had taken the child to a clinic after he fell off the bed. Rai said the other lucky passenger to miss the flight was a foreigner who was with them in the second flight.