US-Bangla plane crashes, at least 49 killed in Kathmandu

KATHMANDU, March 13, 2018: In the worst aviation disaster to hit Nepal in nearly three decades, a US-Bangla Airlines aircraft flying from Dhaka to Kathmandu crashed while landing at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), killing 49 persons on board.

The aircraft swerved repeatedly as it descended towards Tribhuvan International Airport, witnesses said. The plane crashed during a second attempt to land after an unexpected turn in the cloudy weather, they added.

As many as 71 persons, including four crew members, were on board the aircraft, of which 33 were Nepali nationals, a report published in Nepalese daily The Himalayan Times said.

At least 31 bodies were recovered from the crash site while 18 of those rescued were declared dead on arrival at the hospital, said TIA spokesperson Prem Nath Thakur.

The reports said as many as 22 persons were undergoing treatment at various hospitals in Kathmandu.

Fire tenders and ambulances were rushed to the accident site immediately as news of the crash broke.

According to general manager at the TIA, Raj Kumar Chhettri, the plane crashed at 2:18 pm when it took a missed approach touching down the fencing area next to the parked planes at the airport.

Eyewitnesses said the plane hit the empty field near the airport fire building and caught fire immediately.

Air traffic controllers who held tower communication with the aircraft’s captain said the flight was initially permitted to land on the Runway 02 (from Koteshwor area). “The captain then asked for Runway 20 (from Pashupati Nath area) permission turning his flight to the east from its previous location,” one of the officers of TIA said.

He added after making rounds over Runway 20 landing location, the flight suddenly tried to make a final approach towards Runway 02. “Once the tower officials noticed the plane on Runway 02 location, they again communicated with the captain for the clearance,” he said, adding that the captain, however, replied he was on the right track.

After hearing the radio communication, a domestic airlines pilot flying from Bharatpur also informed the ATC tower that there was something wrong with the BS 211 flight as the captain got lost the proper landing direction showing the unusual behaviour. “But, the pilot of Bangladeshi plane repeatedly informed the tower that he was on a right move and proper direction,” the ATC officer said. “Then, the plane suddenly took a wrong direction to the west of the Runway 02 threshold and crashed.”