Nepal plane crash kills 18 in snow, rain and fog

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Associated Press

Posted on February 17, 2014 at 1:02 AM

Updated Monday, Feb 17 at 5:34 AM

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Rescuers in Nepal on Monday found the wreckage of a passenger plane that slammed into a snow-covered mountain and burst into flames, killing all 18 people on board, including a small child, authorities said.

Moving slowly on foot through thick snow, rescuers traveled for 13 kilometers (8 miles) to the crash site. Air traffic control had lost contact with the state-owned Nepal Airlines Twin Otter on Sunday afternoon in poor visibility due to snow, rain and fog.

"Our plane was technically air worthy and we believe it was the weather that caused the crash," said Ram Hari Sharma of Nepal Airlines. He said there will be a full investigation.

The state-run airline is often criticized over allegations of corruption and flying old planes. Last year, the European Union had banned all Nepalese airlines from flying to Europe because of poor aviation safety records.

The plane's charred wreckage was flung across a wide area, said police official Bam Bahadur Bhandari. Some victims were identified using documents found in the wreckage, he said.

A helicopter was able to spot the wreckage earlier Monday near Machinelek, about 250 kilometers (160 miles) west of the capital, Katmandu, but they only way to access the remote location was on foot.

Police and soldiers were trying to dig a temporary helipad for rescue helicopters.

The plane was flying from Katmandu to Jumla, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the west, when it made an unscheduled fuel stop in the city of Pokhara, about a third of the way into the journey.

The de Havilland Canada-manufactured aircraft had 15 passengers and three crew members on board. One of the passengers was believed to be a Danish national, while the rest on board, including an infant, were Nepalese. The plane was 43 years old.

In May, another plane of the same make and model operated by Nepal Airlines crashed while attempting to land at a mountain airstrip in northern Nepal, injuring all 21 people on board.

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