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‘No survivors’ in Nepal plane crash, official says; black boxes recovered

Rescuers find the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder as they search a river gorge after the ATR 72 aircraft carrying 72 people crashed on Jan. 15. (Video: Reuters)
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KATHMANDU, Nepal — There are “no survivors” from the Yeti Airlines plane crash near Nepal’s new Pokhara Airport, authorities said Monday.

Tek Bahadur K.C., chief district officer of the Kaski district, said that at least 69 of the 72 people on the plane had died, with rescuers searching for the bodies of the last people who remain unaccounted for.

“Three bodies are now left inside the deep gorge,” K.C. said. “It’s very difficult to go inside the gorge, which is 300 meters deep and very narrow.”

Prem Nath Thakur, spokesperson for Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport and a member of the rescue coordination committee, said authorities had recovered both black boxes, the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, from the crash site. They will be handed over to the investigation committee members, who reached the crash site on Monday, Thakur said.

The flight departed from the capital, Kathmandu, around 10:30 a.m. local time Sunday bound for Pokhara, a city about 125 miles west of Kathmandu that is popular with tourists.

The flight was expected to take about 25 minutes, and authorities were alerted of the crash about 11 a.m., Assistant Sub Inspector Rudra Thapa of the Pokhara police said Sunday.

At least 68 dead after plane carrying 72 crashes near Nepal airport

The cause of the crash was not clear Monday, which was declared a national day of mourning.

Video footage showed the aircraft, an ATR 72-500 twin-engine turboprop propeller plane, flying low and tilting to its side seconds before it went down. Other videos posted online showed the plane on fire, with large plumes of smoke emerging from the crash site as dozens of people crowded around it.

Bodies of Nepali victims who have been identified will be returned to families after postmortem examinations are completed, K.C. said. Bodies of foreigners that have been identified were set to be airlifted to Kathmandu on Monday, he added.

According to an airline statement, at least 53 Nepali nationals and 15 foreign nationals were on the flight, including five from India, four from Russia, two from South Korea, one from Argentina, one from Australia, one from France and one from Ireland.

Nearly 350 people have died in plane or helicopter crashes in Nepal since 2000, Reuters reported, and the European Union has banned all Nepal-based airlines from its airspace since 2013, citing safety concerns.

In May, 22 people were killed in a crash on a flight involving another twin-propeller plane operated by Tara Air, a subsidiary of Yeti Airlines. The plane departed from Pokhara’s old airport and was headed for Jomson, a tourist town about 20 minutes away.

Pietsch and Kasulis Cho reported from Seoul. Leo Sands in London contributed to this report.