49 dead, 22 injured in Kathmandu Airport plane crash

Published: 13 March 2018 Image credit: Reuters

nepal

A Bangladeshi passenger plane has crashed at Kathmandu Airport in Nepal, killing at least 49 people and injuring 22.

71 people were on board US-Bangla Airways flight BS211, when it clipped a fence as it landed, causing it to crash and erupt into flames.

Initial reports claim the plane was swerving erratically and flying dangerously low before it crashed.

Chief Executive Officer of US-Bangla Airlines, Imran Asif, accused the air control tower at Kathmandu Airport of having “misled” the pilot to land from the wrong direction.

"Captain Abid Sultan has survived the accident. He is an ex-Air Force pilot, having a career of more than 5,000 flying hours. He has more than 1,700 flying hours in this aircraft. He is also an instructor of this aircraft,” he said.

“After hearing ATC [air traffic control] conversation, we assume that that there was no negligence by our pilots."

However, the Airport General Manager Raj Kumar Chettri dismissed these allegations, instead blaming the pilot for approaching the runway from the wrong direction.

Mr Chettri told reporters that once the pilot had received permission to land, he told the control tower he wanted to go in a northern direction.

“The airplane was not properly aligned with the runway. The tower repeatedly asked if the pilot was OK and the reply was ‘yes,”’ he said.

Recordings of the conversation between the pilot and air traffic controllers, which were posted on the air traffic monitoring website liveatc.net, highlight the confusion as to which direction the plane was to land from.

At the end of the conversation, the controller yells, “I say again, turn!”, before fire trucks are ordered on to the runway.

The body of the Bombardier Q400 broke into several pieces before erupting into flames, as fire and rescue crews worked to free trapped passengers.

Amanda Summers, a United States citizen who works in Nepal, witnessed the crash from her office, and said it was “unclear” if the plane had reached the runway.

"It was flying so low I thought it was going to run into the mountains," she said.

"All of a sudden there was a blast and then another blast," she said.

Another witness, Sushil Chandhury said the plane was “approaching from the opposite direction” to which aircrafts usually land.

“The plane was shaking as it was approaching the runway. I was surprised why it was coming in so fast and shaking so much,” he said.

“I was afraid it was going to hit a Malindo Airlines plane. The pilot managed to avoid it and it first dragged on the wings and tippled over before hitting the ground."

Nepal’s Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli said the nation is “saddened” by the incident.

"The whole Nepal has come to a halt. This has been a big tragic incident. We are very saddened by it,” he said.

Of the 67 passengers and four crew members on board, 33 were from Nepal, 32 from Bangladesh, one from China and one from the Maldives.