Monday, January 16, 2023

Narrow escape for settlements near aircraft crash site in Pokhara: Eyewitnesses

Eyewitnesses of the Nepalese passenger plane crash have said that they had a close shave as the Yeti Airlines plane, with 72 onboard, including five Indians, crashed near their settlement and a bomb-like blast was heard.

At least 68 people were killed as the plane crashed into a river gorge while landing at the newly-opened airport in the resort city of Pokhara on Sunday in the Himalayan nation's deadliest aviation accident in over 30 years.

Kalpana Sunar was washing clothes in the front yard of her house when she saw an aircraft falling from the sky and coming in her direction, The Kathmandu Post newspaper quoted her as saying on Monday.

“The aircraft was tilted at an unusual angle and moments later, I heard a bomb-like explosion,” she was quoted as saying.

“Then I saw a plume of black smoke billowing from the Seti gorge,” she added.

One of the plane’s wings hit the ground about 12 metres from the house of local resident Geeta Sunar.

Sunar, who had a miraculous escape said, "Had the aircraft fallen just a bit closer to our home, the settlements would have been destroyed,” the newspaper reported.

“There was so much damage at the incident site, but since it happened away from the settlement, there were no casualties or any damage to the settlements,” she said, adding that there was a fire on both sides of the Seti gorge and the bodies were scattered everywhere.

Children who witnessed the incident said that they could hear passengers screaming from inside the aircraft as it plummeted from the sky spiralling.

Two 11-year-olds, Samir and Prajwal Pariyar initially thought that the aircraft was a toy, but when it came close, they ran away.

“Suddenly, there was darkness all around due to the smoke,” said Samir, adding, "It looked like the aircraft’s tyre would touch us as it fell.” Another eyewitness, Bainsha Bahadur BK, said that if the aircraft had come straight, it would have crash landed into the settlements and caused more damage.

“Around seven or eight windows of the aircraft were still intact and we thought that the passengers might still be alive,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

“But the fire spread across the other half of the plane in an instant, as we watched in horror,” he added.

Yeti Airlines' 9N-ANC ATR-72 aircraft took off from Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport at 10:33 am and crashed on the bank of the Seti River between the old airport and the new airport, minutes before landing, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).

A total of 68 passengers and four crew members were on board the aircraft.

16/01/23 PTI/Telegraph

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