Nepalese plane crash kills 15 pilgrims
A PLANE crashed into a mountain in the Himalayas while trying to land at an airport in northern Nepal on Monday, killing 15 people and critically injuring six.
The plane was turning around to land at Jomsom Airport when it crashed, said Laxmi Raj Sharma, chief government administrator in the area.
The wrecked aircraft was in pieces but did not catch fire. Sharma said the initial investigation indicated it might have had technical problems.
Sharma said survivors were flown to the nearby city of Pokhara for treatment.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai issued a statement expressing condolences at the deaths of the 15 people.
Police official Nareswor Aryal said the plane carried two pilots and a flight attendant - all Nepalese - along with 16 Indians and two Westerners. Aryal couldn't immediately say where the Westerners are from.
The airport is a gateway to a popular destination for trekkers and for Hindu pilgrims on their way to the revered Muktinath temple. It is about 125 miles northwest of the capital, Katmandu.
The Dornier aircraft belonged to the local Agni Air company.
Nepal has only a very limited road network and many communities, particularly in the mountains and hills, are accessible only on foot or by air.
Aviation accidents are relatively common, particularly during the summer monsoon, when visibility is usually at its worst.
A small Buddha Air plane taking tourists on a sightseeing trip around Mount Everest crashed in September last year, killing all 19 people on board.
The Beechcraft plane, carrying 10 Indians, two Americans, one Japanese citizen and three local passengers, came down in heavy rain and fog at Godavari, about six miles from Kathmandu.
The three Nepalese crew also died in the accident as the plane smashed into wooded slopes.
An investigation blamed that crash on a combination of poor visibility and human error.
Ten months earlier a Twin Otter plane carrying three crew and 19 passengers, including one American, smashed into a mountainside shortly after taking off from a small airstrip 140 kilometres east of Kathmandu.
The passengers were mostly Bhutanese citizens on a religious tour of Nepal and had chartered the Tara Air plane to take them to a Buddhist holy site in the area.