Nepalese hospitals return bodies from plane crashes to grieving families

Nepalese hospital staff on Tuesday began the grim task of delivering bodies to grieving families after a plane carrying 72 people crashed, the country’s worst air disaster in three decades.

The Yeti Airlines flight carrying 68 passengers and four crew members plunged into a steep gorge, shattered and burst into flames as it approached downtown Pokhara on Sunday.

All those on board, including six children and 15 foreigners, are said to have died.

Nepal crash: 70 bodies recovered

Rescuers have been working almost around the clock to extract human remains from the canyon, which is littered with twisted airplane seats and pieces of fuselage and wing.

As of Tuesday morning, 70 bodies had been recovered, police officer AK Chhetri told AFP news agency. Another senior official said the day before that the hope of finding anyone alive was “zero”.

“We recovered a body last night. But there were three pieces. We’re not sure if it’s three bodies or one body. It’s only confirmed after a DNA test,” Chhetri said.

Drones are in use and the search for the two remaining bodies has been extended to a radius of two to three kilometers (one to two miles), he added.

The aircraft’s flight recorders, manufactured by France-based ATR, were handed over to authorities on Monday, said Bikram Raj Gautam, chief of Pokhara International Airport.

Hospital workers in blue-and-white hazmat suits and masks loaded plastic-wrapped bodies onto army trucks on Tuesday as distraught relatives cried and hugged outside.

ALSO READ: Hopes for Nepal plane crash survivors ‘zero’

The trucks then drove to the airport, where the bodies would be flown back to the capital, Kathmandu.

The body of one victim, journalist Tribhuban Poudel, was laid out outside his home on a bier covered with orange marigold flowers while mourners walked by to pray in the winter sun.

“Eight bodies were handed over to families. We will hand over another 14 bodies after the autopsies are completed here in Pokhara. 48 bodies were sent to Kathmandu for DNA testing and handover to the families,” Chhetri said.

– explosion –

The ATR 72 was flying from Kathmandu to Pokhara, a gateway for religious pilgrims and trekkers, when it crashed just before 11:00 am (0515 GMT).

“I was walking when I heard a loud explosion like a bomb went off,” said witness Arun Tamu, 44, who was about 500 meters (545 yards) away and live-streamed video of the burning wreckage in the social media.

The cause of the crash was not yet known, but video on social media showed the twin-propeller plane suddenly and sharply turning left as it approached Pokhara Airport. A loud explosion followed.

Experts told AFP it was unclear from the clip whether human error or a mechanical malfunction was to blame.

Experts from the French accident investigation agency were due to arrive in Nepal on Tuesday, the agency told AFP news agency.

“We don’t know if (the crash) was due to a technical error or reason,” local official Tek Bahadur KC told AFP.

– ‘Be in pain’ –

Raj Dhungana, the uncle of one of the passengers, 23-year-old Sangita Shahi, told AFP outside a Pokhara hospital that his whole family was in “pain”.

“God took such a nice person away,” he said.

According to the Press Trust of India news agency, pilot Anju Khatiwada entered the Nepalese aviation sector after her husband was killed while flying a small passenger plane in 2006.

– Poor record –

The Nepalese aviation industry has boomed in recent years, moving goods and people between inaccessible areas and ferrying foreign mountaineers.

The sector suffers from a lack of security due to insufficient training and maintenance.

The European Union has banned all Nepalese airlines from its airspace over safety concerns.

ALSO READ: Nepal Tightens Flight Rules After Crash Kills 22

Nepal also has some of the most difficult and remote airstrips in the world, flanked by snow-capped peaks with difficult approaches and capricious weather.

His deadliest aviation accident occurred in 1992, when all 167 people on a Pakistan International Airlines plane crashed on approach to Kathmandu.

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