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Plane carrying 22 passengers, including 4 Indians, missing in Nepal’s mountains, feared to crash

Kathmandu, May 29 (agencies)

An aircraft is reported missing in the mountainous areas of Nepal. According to the information, 22 people were on board the plane, including 4 Indians. The plane is suspected to have crashed. This has been confirmed by the airline and government officials. The small plane was flying from the tourist town of Pokhara, about 200 km northwest of capital Kathmandu, to Jomsom, about 80 km northwest of the capital, they said. It was operated by Tara Air. The plane had taken a scheduled 15-minute flight to Jomsom hill town. Shortly after take-off, contact with the airport tower was lost. It has been raining in the area for the past few days, but flight operations are normal. On this route, planes fly between mountains and then land in a valley. It is a popular route among foreign climbers who climb the mountain trail. It is also a popular route for Indian and Nepalese pilgrims to visit Muktinath temple.

Apart from 4 Indian, 2 German and 13 Nepalese passengers, three Nepalese crew members were on board the aircraft. The airline has released the list of passengers, in which the Indians have been identified as Ashok Kumar Tripathi, Dhanush Tripathi, Ritika Tripathi and Vaibhavi Tripathi. The crew members were led by Captain Prabhakar Prasad Ghimire. Utsav Pokharel as co-driver and Kismi Thapa as flight attendant were part of the crew of the aircraft. Aviation sources said the plane was supposed to land at Jomsom airport in the western hills, but the plane lost contact with the tower in the sky over Ghorepani on the Pokhara-Jomsom air route. According to an air traffic controller at Jomsom airport, there has been an unconfirmed report of a loud sound in Ghasa, Jomsom. It is suspected that the plane crashed in Dhaulagiri area. Premnath Thakur, General Manager of Tribhuvan International Airport, was quoted as saying that a Nepal Army helicopter carrying 10 personnel and 2 personnel of the Civil Aviation Authority landed on the banks of a river near Narsingh Math, the likely crash site.

The aircraft was traced after ‘Nepal Telecom’ traced the mobile phone of the pilot of the aircraft, Captain Prabhakar Ghimire, through the ‘Global Positioning System’ (GPS) network. Chiranjeevi Rana, chief district officer of Myagadi, told The Kathmandu Post newspaper that inclement weather hampered search efforts at the spot where locals last saw the plane. According to Rana, locals reported that the plane made two rounds at Khaibang and headed towards Keeti Danda near ‘Lete Pass’ (2,500 metres). “A team of police has been sent towards the spot. It is a 12 hour walk from this site to Leyte. There are no human settlements at the place where the plane was last seen.” Rana said, “The helicopter will start aerial operations as soon as the weather improves.” The helicopter flying to Pokhara in search of the missing plane. No one returned without success due to bad weather. An Mi-19 helicopter has also been sent from Kathmandu to assist in the search operation.

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