Flight data and voice recorders found at Nepal crash site. : NPR

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Rescuers follow the crash site and wreckage of a passenger plane in Pokhara, Nepal, Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. Nepal began a national day of mourning on -Monday a day after the plane crashed while trying to land.

Yunish Gurung/AP

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Yunish Gurung/AP

Rescuers follow the crash site and wreckage of a passenger plane in Pokhara, Nepal, Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. Nepal began a national day of mourning on -Monday a day after the plane crashed while trying to land.

Yunish Gurung/AP

POKHARA, Nepal (AP) — A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal says a flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder have been recovered from the crash site of a -passengers who landed during the approach to an airport that has just been opened in the tourist area. city ​​of Pokhara.

Jagannath Niraula said the boxes were found on Monday, a day after the ATR-72 plane crashed, killing 68 of the 72 people on board. He said that they will be handed over to the investigators.

Pemba Sherpa, spokesperson for Yeti Airlines, also confirmed that both the flight data and the cockpit voice recorders were found.

Nepal began a national day of mourning on Monday, as rescue workers descended a 300-meter (984-foot) gorge to continue the search. Two more bodies were found on Monday morning.

It is not yet clear what caused the crash, the Himalayan country’s deadliest plane accident in three decades. The weather was mild and not windy on the day of the crash.

A witness who recorded videos of the plane’s descent from his balcony said he saw the plane flying low before suddenly turning to his left. “I saw this and was shocked… I thought that today everything will be ready here after it crashes, I will also be dead,” said Diwas Bohora. After it crashed, red flames and the ground shook violently, like an earthquake, said Bohora. “I was scared. When I see that scene, I got scared.”

Another witness said he saw the plane spinning violently in the air after it began to descend towards the ground, watching from the terrace of his house. Finally, said Gaurav Gurung, the plane fell nose first to its left and crashed into the gorge.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said that the plane made the last contact with the airport near Seti Gorge at 10:50 am before crashing.

The twin-engine ATR 72 plane, operated by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, was competing on the 27-minute flight from the capital, Kathmandu, to Pokhara, 200 kilometers (125 miles) to the west. In a statement the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said it was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreign nationals, as well as four crew members. The foreigners included five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Pokhara Academy of Health and Science, Western Hospital, where the bodies are being kept. Relatives and friends of the victims, many of whom were from Pokhara, consoled each other as they waited.

Bimala Bhenderi was waiting outside the post-mortem room on Monday. She was planning to meet her friend, Tribhuban Paudel, on Tuesday when she heard that his flight had crashed. “I’m so sad, I still can’t believe it,” she said through tears.

Gyan Khadka, spokesperson for the police in the district, said that 31 bodies have been identified and will be handed over to the family after the officers finish the post mortem reports. The bodies of foreigners and those who are not recognizable will be sent to Kathmandu for further investigation.

On Sunday, Twitter was abuzz with images showing smoke billowing from the crash site, about 1.6 kilometers (nearly a mile) away from Pokhara International Airport. The fuselage of the aircraft was split into several parts which were scattered in the gorge.

Hours after dark, dozens of onlookers crowded around the crash site near the airport in the resort city of Pokhara as rescue workers combed the wreckage from the cliff edge. and in the ravine below.

Local resident Bishnu Tiwari, who rushed to the crash site near the Seti River to help search for bodies, said rescue efforts were hampered by thick smoke and heavy fire.

“The flames were so hot that we couldn’t get near the wreckage. I heard a man crying for help, but because of the flames and smoke we couldn’t help him,” said Tiwari.

At Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, family members looked distraught as they waited for information.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal rushed to the airport after the crash and set up a panel to investigate the incident.

“The incident was tragic. The entire force of the Nepalese army, the police was deployed for the rescue,” he said.

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it was still trying to confirm the fate of two South Korean passengers and had dispatched personnel to the scene. The Russian Ambassador to Nepal, Alexei Novikov, confirmed the death of four Russian citizens who were on board the plane.

Omar Gutiérrez, governor of Neuquen province in Argentina, wrote on his official Twitter account that an Argentine passenger on the flight was Jannet Palavecino, from his province.

Palavecino’s Facebook page says she was manager of the Hotel Suizo in the city of Neuquen. She described herself as a lover of travel and adventure tourism.

Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers told reporters that “our hearts go out to all the families of the crew and passengers” who died, adding that the government was providing consular support to the family of an Australian who was on board the – an airplane.

Pokhara is the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, a popular hiking trail in the Himalayas. The city’s new international airport started operating only two weeks ago.

The type of aircraft involved, the ATR 72, was used by airlines around the world for short regional flights. Introduced in the late 1980s by a French and Italian partnership, the aircraft model has been involved in several fatal accidents over the years.

In Taiwan two previous incidents involving ATR 72-500 and ATR 72-600 aircraft occurred a few months apart.

In July 2014, a TransAsia ATR 72-500 flight crashed while attempting to land on the scenic Penghu archipelago between Taiwan and China, killing 48 people on board. ATR 72-600 operated by the same Taiwanese airline crashed shortly after takeoff in Taipei in February 2015 after wa[da mill-magni tag[ha falliet u t-tieni ng[atat, milli jidher bi ]ball.

The 2015 crash, captured in dramatic footage that showed the plane hitting a taxi as it spun out of control, killed 43, and prompted authorities to temporarily ground all ATR 72s registered in Taiwan. TransAsia stopped all flights in 2016 and later went out of business.

ATR identified the aircraft involved in Sunday’s crash as an ATR 72-500 in a tweet. According to aircraft tracking data from flightradar24.com, the aircraft was 15 years old and “equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data.” It was previously flown by India’s Kingfisher Airlines and Thailand’s Nok Air before Yeti took over in 2019, according to records on Airfleets.net.

Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR 72-500 aircraft, company spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula said.

Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest, has a history of air crashes. Sunday’s crash is the deadliest in Nepal since 1992, when all 167 people on board a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it skidded into a hill while trying to land in Kathmandu.

According to the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety database, there have been 42 fatal plane crashes in Nepal since 1946.

According to a 2019 safety report by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, the country’s “hostile topography” and “diverse weather patterns” were the biggest dangers to flights in the country. The report said that such incidents occurred at airports that had short runway strips for take-off and landing and most were due to pilot error.

The report added that 37% of all air crashes in Nepal between 2009 and 2018 were due to pilot error, not counting helicopters and recreational flights.

The European Union has banned airlines from Nepal from flying to the 27-nation bloc since 2013, citing lax safety standards. In 2017, the International Civil Aviation Organization cited improvements in Nepal’s aviation sector, but the EU continues to demand administrative reforms.

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