An eyewitness who saw the Yeti Airlines plane crash from his balcony on Sunday morning has recounted how he saw the aircraft flying so dangerously low and and close to his home that he feared he was going to die.
Diwas Bohora, a resident of Kaski district, western Nepal, said he witnessed the moment when the plane, on approach to land in Nepal’s Himalayan Pokhara city, suddenly veered to its left and came down, shaking the ground violently.
“I saw that and I was shocked — I thought that today everything will be finished here after it crashes, I will also be dead,” he said.
The Yeti Airlines twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft was carrying 72 people – four crew members and 68 passengers – when it crashed, killing at least 68 people, though no survivors are expected to be found.
It was the Himalayan country’s deadliest aviation safety incident in three decades and the third-deadliest crash in its history.
In the aftermath of the crash, Mr Bohora told the Associated Press, red flames began erupting from the crash site and “the ground shook violently, like an earthquake”.
“I was scared. Seeing that scene, I was scared,” he said.
A spokesman for Nepal‘s Civil Aviation Authority says the plane’s flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder have been retrieved from the site of the crash on Monday, with search and rescue teams forced to rappel down a 300-metre (984 feet) gorge to continue their efforts, which were suspended overnight.
It remains unclear what caused the crash, but from witness accounts like Mr Bohora’s and videos of the incident some experts are blaming aerodynamic stall – a situation when an aircraft experiences a reduction of lift.
Amit Singh, an experienced pilot and founder of India’s Flight Safety Foundation, said the video appears to show a stall, a situation especially likely at low airspeeds.
Another video which has been widely shared on social media captures the final moments of the flight from inside the plane.
It was live-streamed by an Indian national who was travelling with his three friends, and shows the passengers were oblivious to any upcoming danger with one of them saying “it’s really fun” just before the camera starts to shake and flames erupt into the frame. People can be heard screaming before everything goes dark.
The man who shot this video has been identified as Sonu Jaiswal, who was travelling to the famous Pashupatinath Temple to pay obeisance for his six-month-old son’s birth, PTI news reported.
Vijay Jaiswal, a relative and head of his village, told the Indian news agency that Sonu had gone to Nepal on 10 January to visit the temple in Kathmandu.
“His main purpose was to pay obeisance... as his wish to have a son - now six months old - has been fulfilled. But fate had something else in store for him,” he said.
Four people remain missing as of Monday, as two more bodies were recovered from the gorge.
But a senior administrative officer in Nepal said hopes are “nil” of finding any survivors at this stage.
So far, 38 dead bodies have been recovered and handed over to families as authorities struggle to identify those whose charred bodies are beyond recognition.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Pokhara Academy of Health and Science, Western Hospital, where the bodies are being kept.
“The bodies are being identified. At least 38 bodies have been identified so far,” said police inspector Gyan Bahadur Khadka, acting information officer of Kaski District Police Office.
The bodies of foreigners and those that are unrecognisable will be sent to Kathmandu for further investigation.
The plane was carrying 15 foreign nationals, including five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France.
The consular officer and foreign ministries of the countries are working with Nepal officials to understand the status of their citizens, and to convey the news to their distraught families.
The Russian Ambassador to Nepal, Alexei Novikov, confirmed the death of four Russian citizens who were on board the plane.
They included a travel blogger Elena Banduro, 33, who had urged others online to “Go to Nepal” in her last post about her latest trip. The other three have been identified as Viktoria Altunina, Yuri Lugin and Viktor Lagin.