Tara Air: 14 bodies recovered as wreckage of missing Nepal plane found in mountains

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The wreckage of a plane which went missing with 22 people on board has been found in the mountains of Nepal's Mustang district, the army said on Monday.

Almost 24 hours after it went missing, search and rescue troops were able to "physically locate" the plane’s crash site in Sanosware, Thasang-2, Nepal Army spokesperson brigadier general Narayan Silwal announced on Twitter.

Fourteen bodies have been located so far at the crash site, with rescuers continuing to search for others. The government suspects that all passengers aboard have “lost their lives”, home ministry spokesperson Phadindra Mani Pokhrel told news agency ANI.

“Our preliminary assessment shows that no one could have survived the plane crash, but an official statement is due.”

Sudarshan Bartuala, a spokesperson for the airline, told The Kathmandu Post that the “bodies have been scattered over a 100-metre radius from the main impact point”.

The army shared an image of the crash site which showed the wreckage of the small aircraft scattered across the mountainside.

“Lt Mangal Shrestha, police inspector and a guide have already reached the site. Other rescue team members from different agencies are trying to reach the sites using small helicopters,” Mr Silwal said.

“Every possible means to reach the site is being considered.”

The crash site of a Tara Air twin engine plane on a cliff at Thasang Village (EPA)
The crash site of a Tara Air twin engine plane on a cliff at Thasang Village (EPA)

The Canada-made DHC-6-300 plane with four Indians, two Germans and 16 Nepali people on board took off for a 20-minute flight from the resort town of Pokhara, 200km west of capital Kathmandu, to the mountain town of Jomsom.

The turboprop Twin Otter aircraft lost contact with the airport tower a few minutes after flying over an area of deep river gorges and mountaintops.

The hull was tracked down to an altitude of 14,500 ft using GPS coordinates from pilot captain Prabhakar Ghimire's phone, which was found ringing even after the crash.

"The cell phone of Captain Ghimire of the missing aircraft has been ringing and Nepal Army's helicopter has landed in the possible accident area after tracking the captain's phone from Nepal Telecom," Prem Nath Thakur, general manager of Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport told MyRepublica.

Search efforts resumed on Monday after bad weather hindered the army and other rescue teams from conducting the operation on Sunday.

Relatives of passengers aboard the Twin Otter plane operated by Tara Air, mourn outside Pokhara airport (AFP via Getty Images)
Relatives of passengers aboard the Twin Otter plane operated by Tara Air, mourn outside Pokhara airport (AFP via Getty Images)

Despite adverse weather conditions in Dhaulagiri region, patrol units from security forces and groups of locals continued to search on foot.

Spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) Deo Chandra Lal Karna said five helicopters were ready to help with the rescue process.

The Mustang district in the Himalayan nation is home to the pilgrimage site of the Muktinath temple.

Tara Air operates a fleet of six short take-off and landing STOL aircraft, comprising four Twin Otter (DHC 6/300) and two Dornier (DO 228) aircraft, according to the company’s website.

In 2016, a Tara airlines Twin Otter plane flying the same route had crashed, killing all 23 aboard.

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