Witnesses have described how they heard the desperate ‘wailing and screaming’ of terrified passengers after a plane crashed in a fireball in the Nepalese capital killing seven Britons.
The twin-engine aircraft, operated by domestic carrier Sita Air, was carrying trekkers to the Everest region and came down minutes after take-off near the Manohara River on the southwest edge of Katmandu, killing 19 people in total.
The oldest British victim is believed to be 58 while the youngest is 27. Two of them are understood to be brothers. This morning, as a number of badly burned bodies lay just metres from the aircraft’s shattered fuselage, bystanders described hearing desperate screams and flames coming from one of the plane’s wings moments before it hit the ground at around 6.30am (00.45 GMT).
Housewife Tulasa Pokharel, 26, whose house is located just meters from the crash site, said she saw the plane with black smoke crash into an open space on the banks of Manohara river, according to myrepublica.com. She said: “That time I could hear some people inside the plane wailing and screaming. When we went to inform the police and other locals about the incident and came back, there was just silence. We saw the plane burning and all of them dead.”
She told reporters: “We could hear people inside the aircraft screaming, but we couldn’t throw water at the plane to put out the fire because we were scared that the engines were about to explode.
She said the pilot tried his best to make an emergency landing and that if he had managed it some of the passengers could have been saved. Harimaya Tamang, who lives near the crash site, said: ‘The plane appeared to be on fire already before it landed. We thought the pilot was trying to force land because it was on fire and the river area had open space to land.
“The plane hit the ground, bounced once but it did not break. The plane was already on fire, the local people rushed with buckets and tried to put out the flames but it was too hot and people could not get close enough.” The Dornier Aircraft 9N-AHA was just a kilometre away from the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. Airport authorities said that the pilot told them seconds before the crash how it had hit a bird.
The crew had apparently became aware of intense heat in the cabin shortly after take-off. A spokesman for Sita Airways said: “There was very much heat and then the fire began. They were very close to the airport. After two or three minutes it crashed.” The plane appeared to have been trying to turn back as it was found pointing towards the airport area, according to airport official Ratish Chandra Suman.