19 die in Nepal plane crash (Third Lead)

Last Updated: Fri, Sep 28, 2012 11:50 hrs

Kathmandu, Sep 28 (IANS) Nineteen people, including seven British tourists, were killed Friday when their plane turned into a ball of fire as it crashed minutes after taking off from here.

The Dornier 9N-AHA of Sita Air went down at 6.10 a.m. just a kilometre away from the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, apparently due to a bird hit.

Seven Britons, on a trekking holiday to the foothills of Mount Everest, five Chinese and seven Nepali nationals were on the plane, BBC reported.

The disaster took place barely four months after an airplane carrying 21 people crashed on a cliff in western Nepal in May. At least seven Indians were among the dead then.

Tulasa Pokharel, whose house is located close to Friday's crash site, said she saw the plane emitting black smoke landing on the bank of Manohara river, reported myrepublica.com.

"That time I could hear people inside the plane wailing and screaming.

"When we went to inform the police and locals about the incident and came back, there was just silence. We saw the plane burning and all of them dead," she was quoted as saying.

The seven Nepalis killed include three crew members: Pilot Bijaya Tandukar, co-pilot T. Thapa and airhostess Ruja Shakya.

Kumar Magar, a Nepalese soldier, had boarded the plane without ticket.

Authorities said the crash happened after the aircraft hit a bird.

Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, an official, said pilot Tandukar had told the air traffic control that the plane had suffered a bird hit.

Tandukar said the air traffic control had contacted the pilot to inquire about "unusual manoeuvering" of the aircraft during take off.

Dipendra Paude, an official, said the British were members of a trekking group planning to hike in the hills surrounding the Everest, the world's highest peak.

He said a fire broke out in the plane within two minutes after take off. "We don't know how old the plane was."

A member of Sita Airways operations office told The Telegraph that shortly before the fire broke out, the crew became aware of intense heat in the cabin.

"Then the fire began. They were very close to the airport. After two or three minutes it crashed," the official said.

The aircraft was carrying two groups of trekkers.

The British group, the youngest of which was 27 and the eldest 60, was travelling to the Khumbu Pass for a 16-day trek to three high passes and the Everest Base Camp, said telegraph.co.uk.

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