28 September 2012
Last updated at 07:48 ET
Seven Britons were among 19 people killed when a plane heading for the Everest region crashed in Nepal’s capital, the Foreign Office has said.
The Sita Air plane came down minutes after take-off from Kathmandu. The Britons’ next of kin have been contacted, the FO says.
Officials said it crashed into a river bank and caught fire.
Aviation officials said five Chinese nationals and seven Nepalis, of whom three were crew members, were on board.
The Press Association identified the Britons, quoting local travel company Sherpa Adventures, as Raymond Eagle, 58; Christopher Davey, 51; Vincent Kelly, 50; Darren Kelly, 45; Timothy Oakes, 57; Stephen Holding, 60; and Benjamin Ogden, 27.
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The cause of the crash has not yet been confirmed. However, the general manager of Tribhuvan International Airport, Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, said in a statement that the plane, a twin-propeller Dornier, had struck a bird.
He said air traffic control contacted the pilot after noticing an unusual manoeuvre minutes after take-off. The pilot said his plane had hit a vulture, the statement said.
The British ambassador to Nepal, told Sky News: “Our thoughts at the moment are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives.”
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We are devastated by this news”
Asked about the cause of the crash, Mr Tucknott said: “This is not the time to speculate; obviously there will be an air crash investigation and clearly we will have to wait to see what they find caused the air crash.”
Earlier, he went to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, where the bodies of those who died had been taken.
Explore Worldwide, the Farnborough-based adventure travel company, confirmed that the Britons were its clients.
Their Nepalese tour guide was also on the plane.
Ashley Toft, the travel company’s managing director, said: “We are devastated by this news. Our thoughts are very much with the families of those affected, both in the UK and in Nepal.
“The basic facts are that Sita Air operates scheduled flights and is approved by airline authorities. The weather was good. The plane was departing for Lukla and our passengers were heading for Everest Base Camp at the start of their trek.”
He said the company was sending a senior manager to Nepal. She is expected to arrive on Saturday.
Plane ‘caught fire’
The trekking season has just begun in Nepal and thousands of climbers, including many Westerners, head to the country’s famous Himalayan peaks.
A spokeswoman for local travel company Sherpa Adventures said the British group arrived in Nepal on Wednesday and had been due to begin trekking later, completing their trip in mid-October.
Police spokesman Binod Singh told the AFP news agency that “the pilots seem to have tried to land it safely on the banks of the river but unfortunately the plane caught fire”.
Images showed burning wreckage at the crash site and dozens of rescue and security personnel.
British mountaineer Alan Hinkes told the BBC he had taken the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla many times and that problems usually occurred at the Lukla end.
“The landing strip in Lukla is a bit like an aircraft carrier with a mountain at the end of it, with a 1,000ft drop at the end of the runway. Normally crashes happen at that end,” he said.
He added: “It is not the safest place to fly, I must admit, but it is what you have to do to get into the mountains.”
Aviation accidents involving small aircraft are not uncommon in mountainous Nepal.
In May, 15 people were killed when a plane crashed trying to land at an airport in the north of the country.
And in September 2011, 19 people were killed when a Buddha Air plane crashed during a flight to view Mount Everest.
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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19755010