Six killed in Mailung helicopter crash

  • One woman passenger miraculously survives
- Suraj Kunwar, NAYAK PAUDEL, Kathmandu

Sep 9, 2018-

Six people including the pilot died when Altitude Air helicopter crashed at Mailung Pakha in Meghang Rural Municipality, Nuwakot district, on Saturday morning.

The missing helicopter with seven people on board was found crashed in a gorge near Mailung Pakha later in the afternoon.

The chopper went missing while returning to Kathmandu from Samagaun in Gorkha district where it had gone to drop four Chinese citizens and a Nepali. The chopper was expected to reach the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) at 8:20 am.

According to TIA General Manager Rajkumar Chhetri, six out of the seven people on board were found dead at the accident site while female passenger Lho Ani Dolma Diki, a local of Gorkha, was found alive.

The deceased have been identified as Senior captain Nischal KC, Dilli Bahadur Gurung of Ramechhap, Hira Sherpa of Dolakha, Chewang Nurbu of Gorkha, Sunil Tamang of Sindhupalchok and the Japanese national Hiromi Komatsu. Trekker Komatsu, 68, was returning after failing an attempt to climb Mount Manaslu.

Diki was rescued alive from the crash site. She was brought to Nepal Mediciti Hospital, Lalitpur, for further treatment on Saturday evening.

According to a senior Air Traffic Controller (ATC) at TIA, captain KC had reported approach tower to perform landing at 8:20am.

“After the chopper was in the air, he had mentioned that he was coming down to an altitude of 5,500ft from 9,500ft,” said another ATC, adding “It was our last conversation with him.” A senior captain at Altitude Air, pilot KC had clocked 8,500 hours of flying.

After it went out of contact at 8:05am en route to Kathmandu, a search team was deployed to find the missing chopper. “Once the chopper went off contact, three helicopters—one from Altitude Air and two from Shree Airlines—were deployed on  a search mission,” said Pratap Babu Tiwari, TIA spokesperson.

The location of the crash was notified to the Rescue Coordination Committee (RCC) of TIA around 1:45pm, after a search helicopter saw the crash. The first rescue team reached the location around 2:15pm.

“The crash site was in a dense forest on a steep hill. The rescue team had to land at around one hour walking distance from the scene,” said a member of the rescue committee Tenji Sherpa.

The time required to reach Kathmandu from Samagaun is around 45minutes. Samagaun is at an altitude of 11,000ft. A pilot maintains an altitude of 9,500ft to 6,500ft while returning to fly under the Instrument Flight

Rules (IFR).

IFR means flying with reference to the instruments in the aircraft cockpit.

“The reason of the crash is not clear yet. Since the chopper neither had FDR (Flight Data Recorder) nor CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder), it is difficult to find the real cause,” said Sitaram Sapkota, Director of Altitude Air.  

According to TIA officials, the crash happened due to bad weather. “The weather was so bad that even rescue work was affected which might have been the reason behind the crash. Further investigation into the crash will be done,” added Tiwari.

As it was difficult to bring the bodies to the area where the rescue team had landed, the bodies are kept at the crash site. According to RCC, the dead bodies would be brought to Kathmandu once the weather clears on Sunday morning.

The government has not formed any committee to investigate into the crash.

Published: 09-09-2018 08:05

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