Kathmandu, May 29
The fate of 22 people, including four members of an Indian family, aboard a Nepal Airlines plane remained unclear as bad weather and cloud cover made it difficult to locate the plane that went missing on Sunday in the mountainous region of the Himalayan country. Officials said, after taking off from the tourist city of Pokhara.
The Nepal Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement that the condition of the Tara Air plane which took off at 10:15 am from Pokhara, 200 km east of Kathmandu, is not known so far.
Sudarshan Bartola, an airline spokesperson, said the Twin Otter 9N-AET turboprop aircraft had four Indian nationals, two Germans and 13 Nepalese passengers along with a three-Nepalese crew.
The plane was on its way from Pokhara to Jomsom, a popular tourist town in central Nepal.
The airline released the passenger list which identified four Indians as Ashok Kumar Tripathi, his wife Vibhavi Pandikar (Tripathy) and their children Dhanush and Ritika. The family is currently residing in Thane, near Mumbai.
“Since searches conducted at potential locations have been hampered by mountainous terrain and bad weather, the condition of the aircraft remains unknown,” the CAAN statement said.
“However, the rescue coordination center remains open for 24 hours and search operations will be intensified via air as well as land routes,” she added.
She added that a military helicopter and private helicopters are participating in the search.
A Nepal Army spokesman said troops and a helicopter with rescue teams were trying to locate the possible accident – believed to be in and around Leyte Mustang.
Poor visibility due to bad weather hampers efforts. The location of the aircraft has not yet been determined. We try to get to the place where the locals allegedly saw something burning. Once our forces arrive at the site, only then can we verify the results formally and independently,” the spokesperson said.
He said the army “has stopped all search and rescue efforts for the day due to the loss of daylight and bad weather. The search will resume early Monday morning from the air and the ground.” He added that the search and rescue team is on alert in Jomsom.
In a tweet, the Indian Embassy in Nepal released the emergency hotline number: +977-9851107021.
Tara Air Flight 9NAET, which took off from Pokhara at 9.55 am today, has disappeared with 22 people on board, including 4 Indians. The search and rescue operation is running. She added that the embassy is in contact with their families.
The flight crew was led by Captain Prabhakar Prasad Ghimire. Utsav Pokhrel is the co-pilot while Kismi Thapa is the air hostess, Pokhara Airport Information Officer Dev Raj Adhikari.
The plane was scheduled to land at Jomsom Airport in the western mountainous region at 10:15 am.
Air sources said the plane lost contact with the tower from the sky above Ghribani on the Pokhara-Jomsom air route.
According to the air traffic controller at Jomsom Airport, they have an unconfirmed report of a loud noise in the Jamsoom gas station. It is suspected that the plane crashed in Daulagiri district.
Prem Nath Thakur, general manager of Tribhuvan International Airport, was quoted as saying that a Nepal Army helicopter carrying 10 soldiers and civil aviation authority personnel landed on a river bank near Narchang Monastery, the likely crash site. From My Republica newspaper.
Interestingly, the plane was in existence after Nepal Telecom tracked the mobile phone of pilot Captain Prabhakar Ghimire through a GPS network.
“Captain Geimer’s cell phone rang and the Nepal Army helicopter landed in the area of the potential accident after the captain’s phone was traced back to Nepal Telecom,” Thakur said.
The chief district official, Myagde Chirangibi Rana, told the Kathmandu Post earlier that bad weather had hampered search efforts at the site where locals were last seen.
According to him, local residents reported that the plane cut two circles in Khibang and flew to Keti Danda near Leyte Pass (2,500 metres).
A team of police was mobilized at the site. The location is a 12 hour walk from Leyte. “There are no human settlements in the area where the locals last spotted the plane.” “As soon as the weather improves, the helicopter will start its air operations,” Rana said.
A helicopter that flew from Pokhara in search of the missing plane returned earlier today without any success due to bad weather.
Home Minister Pal Krishna Khand directed the authorities to intensify the search for the missing plane.
The chief of Mustang District, Nitra Prasad Sharma, said that following instructions from the Home Minister, security officials in five districts adjacent to the Daulagiri summit were urged to remain alert.
Officials said the last time the plane was tracked, it was heading towards the Daulagiri summit.
A Nepal Army MI-17 helicopter was also sent from Kathmandu to Leyte to assist in the search.
Families of the missing crew and passengers gathered at Pokhara Airport.
In 2016, all 23 people on board were killed when a plane of the same airline crashed after takeoff.
In March 2018, a US-Bengali plane crash occurred at Tribhuvan International Airport, killing all 51 people on board.
A Sita Air plane crashed in September 2012 while making an emergency landing at Tribhuvan International Airport, killing 19 people.
A plane flying from Pokhara to Jomsom crashed near Jomsom Airport on May 14, 2012, killing 15 people.
Tara Air is the newest and largest aviation service provider in the Nepalese mountains, according to the airline’s website. I started the business in 2009 with a mission to help develop rural areas of Nepal. PTI