Nepal plane crash: Search for final victim continues after 71 bodies recovered

Authorities in Nepal have announced that there is no chance of finding any more survivors from the Yeti Airlines flight that crashed on Sunday with 72 people on board.

On Wednesday, Tek Bahadur KC, a top district official in Pokhara said: “There is no possibility of finding any survivor. We have collected 71 bodies so far. The search for the last one will continue.”

The twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft was flying from Kathmandu to the tourist city of Pokhara on Sunday when it crashed.

The flight plummeted into a gorge while on approach to land at the newly opened Pokhara International Airport. It “cruised at 12,500 feet and was on a normal descent”, a spokesperson with the airport said.

The plane was carrying 53 local passengers along with 15 foreign nationals, including five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from the UK, Australia, Argentina and France.

Ajay KC, a police official at the rescue site said that identifying bodies and accounting for all 72 people has been difficult because of the state of the remains.

On the day of the crash, 68 bodies were found while another two were recovered on Monday.

Late on Tuesday afternoon, another body was recovered, according to officials.

“There is nothing left there. But the search will continue,” said Gurudutt Ghimire, another official who is part of the search operations.

Meanwhile, authorities announced on Monday that both the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder had been recovered from the wreckage.

The devices will be sent wherever the manufacturer recommends as Nepal does not have facilities to read the black boxes.

It is still unclear what caused the crash, which took place less than a minute’s flight from the plane’s destination, on a mild day amid calm winds.

Sunday’s accident was the deadliest since 1992 when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed as it hit a hill while trying to land in Kathmandu.

A video captured by an Indian passenger on his Facebook live stream, just moments before the crash, showed the plane suddenly veering toward its left as the smartphone briefly captured the cries of passengers.

The footage then turns shaky and the screeching sound of an engine can be heard. Toward the end of the video, huge flames and smoke took over the frame.

Nearly 350 people have died since 2000 in plane or helicopter crashes in Nepal, which is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest where sudden weather changes can cause hazardous travel conditions.

(Additional reporting by agencies)