A plane caught fire and crashed, killing all 19 people on board, shortly after taking off from the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu and colliding with an eagle, authorities in the Himalayan country said Friday.
There were 16 passengers and three crew members on the Dornier Aircraft when it crashed near the Manohara River in Bhaktapur District, Nepal's Civil Aviation Authority said. The river is in the same valley as Kathmandu.
The passengers included seven Britons and five Chinese citizens, said Sameer Neupane, an official at Sita Air, which was operating the flight. The other people killed were four Nepali passengers and the three Nepali crew members, Neupane said, citing the plane's passenger list.
Images from the scene showed emergency workers surrounding the plane's charred remains, trying to extinguish the flames.
Officials are investigating the cause of the crash and have recovered the plane's flight data recorder, said Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, general manager of Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, where the plane took off from. The plane's collision with the black eagle soon after takeoff is believed to be a contributing factor to the crash, he said.
The plane was scheduled to fly from Kathmandu to Lukla, a village in northeastern Nepal that is a popular staging post for people on their way to Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak. This time of year is the peak season for visitors to the Everest region.
The seven British passengers were booked on a trek with Sherpa Adventure Travels, said Sonam Sherpa, the manager of the trekking company. The 13-day hike would have taken the tourists to the base camp at Everest and back to Lukla, Sherpa said.
The Chinese state-run broadcaster CCTV cited the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu as confirming the deaths of the five Chinese passengers. The British Embassy in Kathmandu wasn't immediately able to confirm the reports of the British deaths.
Plane crashes in Nepal occur with some regularity. A small plane crashed in a mountainous area of the country in May, killing 15 of the 21 people on board.
And a year ago, a plane returning to Kathmandu from a sightseeing tour hit a mountain and broke into pieces. All 19 passengers on board died, including two Americans.