'Six dead' in Nepal army plane crash

Rescue teams in Nepal scouring the wreckage of a military plane that crashed in a remote hunting reserve have recovered four bodies and presume the other two people on board are dead, police said Wednesday. The Britten-Norman Islander plane was returning to the capital Kathmandu from a rescue mission near the Indian border on Tuesday evening when it lost contact with air traffic control in bad weather. Four "badly damaged" bodies have been found at the site of the crash in the Dhorpatan hunting reserve, a five-day trek from the central city of Pokhara, senior local police officer Uma Prasad Chaturbedi said. "One badly burned body has been identified as male. The bodies were scattered within 50-60 metres (165-200 feet) from the crash site. Though the rescue team hasn't found the remaining two, chances of their survival are nil," he added. Witnesses had reported hearing an explosion before seeing the aircraft crash into dense jungle on the side of a hill and burst into a fireball. Debris was found up to 100 metres from the site of the impact. Chaturbedi said fog, snow and extreme cold were hampering the rescue efforts. "An army helicopter, sent to bring the bodies, hasn't been able to land. The place is very remote and is blanketed by heavy fog," he said. The army lost contact with the plane at 7:05 pm (1320 GMT) after it had taken off from the city of Nepalgunj in southwestern Nepal. Locals said they saw the aircraft descending in the dark without any lights, The Kathmandu Post reported. "There was a loud bang and there was a fire on the hill," witness Lal Kumari Thapa told the newspaper. The crew included a doctor, a medical assistant, a patient, his brother and two army pilots. The bodies were expected to be flown to Kathmandu later on Wednesday. Nepal has no air force, but flies several aircraft within the Nepalese Army Service, also known as the Nepal Army Air Wing. The Islander aircraft, normally used for surveillance missions, was donated to Nepal by Britain during the Maoist rebellion in 2005. Aviation accidents are relatively common in the landlocked Himalayan country, which has only a limited road network, with many communities in the mountains and hills accessible only on foot or by air. by Deepak Adhikari (c) 2011 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Oct 19, 2011