Bodies of Nepalese plane crash victims have returned to grieving families
Nepali hospitals began the process of handing over the bodies of plane crash victims to their grieving families on Tuesday.
A Yeti Airlines plane carrying 68 passengers and four crew plunged into a steep ravine, smashed into pieces and caught fire as it approached the central city of Pokhara on Sunday.
All on board, including six children and 15 foreigners, are believed to have died.
Rescuers work almost around the clock extracting human remains from a gorge filled with twisted plane seats and bits of fuselage and wing.
Police official AK Chhetri told AFP that 70 bodies had been recovered early Tuesday. Another senior official said the day before that there was “nothing to hope” of finding anyone alive.
“We recovered one body last night. But it was three pieces. We are not sure if it was three bodies or one body. It will only be confirmed after DNA testing,” Chhetri said.
He added that drones had been used and the search for the remaining two bodies had been expanded to a radius of 2 to 3 kilometers (1 to 2 miles).
Bikram Raj Gautam, president of Pokhara International Airport, said the black boxes of the plane, made by France-based ATR, were handed over to authorities on Monday.
Hospital workers in blue and white protective suits and balaclavas loaded corpses wrapped in plastic onto military trucks on Tuesday as their relatives wept in daze and hugged outside.
The trucks then left for the airport, where the bodies will be flown to the capital, Kathmandu.
The body of one of the victims, journalist Tribhuban Poodle, was laid on a coffin covered in orange marigolds outside his home as mourners moved forward to pray in the winter sunshine.
“Eight bodies have been handed over to the families. We will hand over 14 more bodies after completing the autopsies here in Pokhara. 48 bodies have been sent to Kathmandu for nucleic acid testing and handed over to the families,” Chhetri said.
Flyer photographed crash
Passenger Sonu Jaiswal’s 90-second smartphone video as the aircraft approached the runway began flying over buildings and green fields over the Nepalese Himalayan city of Pokhara.
Everything seemed normal as Jaiswal’s Facebook Live morphed from the breathtaking views seen from the plane window to the other passengers laughing. Finally, Jaiswal, wearing a yellow jacket, turns the camera to himself and smiles.
Then it happened. The plane suddenly appeared to veer to its left when Jaiswal’s smartphone briefly picked up the screams of the passengers. Within seconds, the thuds turned into vibrations and recorded the screeching sound of the engine. Towards the end of the video, flames and smoke shoot through the frame.
The co-pilot suffered the same fate as the husband
Yeti Airlines flight co-pilot Anju Khatiwada, who pursued years of pilot training in the United States after her husband died in a 2006 plane crash while flying the same airlines. Her colleagues described her as a very skilled and enthusiastic pilot.
The deaths of Khatiwada, 44, and Jaiswal, 25, are part of a deadly pattern in Nepal, a country that has seen a string of air crashes over the years, due in part to rough terrain, bad weather and aging fleets.