Both ‘black boxes’ retrieved from site of Nepal plane crash that killed 69

The flight data and cockpit voice recorders have been found at the site of a plane crash near the tourist town of Pokhara.


A spokesman for Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said Monday that the flight data and cockpit voice recorders have been retrieved from the site of the crash of a passenger plane that went down on approach to a newly opened airport in the tourist town of Pokhara.

Jagannath Niraula said the boxes were found Monday, a day after the crash of the ATR-72 aircraft killed at least 69 of the 72 people aboard. He said the recorders would be handed over to investigators. Rescuers are still searching the debris, which is scattered down a nearly 1,000-foot gorge, for three missing people, who are believed to be dead.

Pemba Sherpa, a spokesperson for Yeti Airlines, also confirmed that the recorders were found.


It remains unclear what caused the crash, the country’s deadliest air accident in three decades, which took place amid mild, non-windy weather.

The twin-engine aircraft was completing the 27-minute flight from the capital, Kathmandu, to Pokhara, 125 miles west. It was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreign nationals, and four crew members, the Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. The foreigners included five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France.

A witness who recorded video of the plane’s descent said he saw the plane flying low before it suddenly veered to its left. “I saw that and I was shocked. … I thought that today everything will be finished here after it crashes — I will also be dead,” said Diwas Bohora.

Rescuers recovered 21 bodies from the crash site, where aircraft parts could be seen scattered among rocks and moss on the side of a mountain gorge.

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After it crashed, red flames erupted and the ground shook violently, Bohora said.

Amit Singh, an experienced pilot and founder of India’s Safety Matters Foundation, said the video appears to show a stall, a situation in which a plane loses lift, especially likely at low airspeeds.

A pilot who routinely flies from India to Nepal said the region’s topography, with its mountain peaks and narrow valleys, raises the risk of accidents and sometimes requires pilots to fly by sight rather than relying on instruments. The pilot, who works for a private Indian airline and didn’t want to be named because of company policy, called the ATR 72-500 an “unforgiving aircraft” for pilots who are not highly skilled and familiar with the region’s terrain and wind speeds.

The Civil Aviation Authority said the aircraft last made contact with the airport from near Seti Gorge at 10:50 a.m. Sunday.


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Hundreds of people gathered outside the Pokhara Academy of Health and Science, Western Hospital, where the bodies are being kept. Relatives and friends of victims, many of whom were from Pokhara, consoled each other as they waited.

Bimala Bhenderi was waiting outside the post-mortem room Monday. She had been planning to meet her friend, Tribhuban Paudel, on Tuesday when she heard that his flight had crashed.

“I’m so sad. I can’t believe it still,” she said in tears.

Bikash Jaiswal said that he could identify his wife’s brother only by the ring he wore and that he had yet to tell his wife, who was giving birth Sunday. Sanjay Jaiswal, who worked as a marketing agent for a private pharmaceutical company in Kathmandu, was flying to Pokhara for the birth. More than 24 hours after the crash, Sanjay’s body lay in the same hospital where his niece was just born.

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“He was a hardworking person, and now there’s no one left in his family to earn,” Bikash said.

The Civil Aviation Authority said that 41 of the dead had been identified. Gyan Khadka, a police spokesperson in the district, said the bodies would be handed over to families after officials finished autopsy reports. The bodies of foreigners and those that are unrecognizable will be sent to Kathmandu for further investigation.

Local resident Bishnu Tiwari, who rushed to the crash site near the Seti River to help search for bodies, said rescue efforts Sunday were hampered by thick smoke and a raging fire.


“The flames were so hot that we couldn’t go near the wreckage. I heard a man crying for help, but because of the flames and smoke we couldn’t help him,” Tiwari said.

At Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, family members appeared distraught as they waited for information.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was still trying to confirm the fate of two South Korean passengers and had sent staff to the scene.

The Russian ambassador to Nepal, Alexei Novikov, confirmed the death of four Russian citizens who were on board the plane.

Omar Gutiérrez, governor of Argentina’s Neuquen province, wrote on his official Twitter account that an Argentine passenger on the flight was Jannet Palavecino, from his province.

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Palavecino’s Facebook page says she was manager of the Hotel Suizo in Neuquen city. She described herself as a lover of travel and adventure tourism.

Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers told reporters Monday that “our hearts go out to all of the families of the crew and passengers” who died, adding that the government was providing consular support to the family of an Australian who was aboard the plane.


The ATR 72 has been used by airlines around the world for short regional flights. Introduced in the late 1980s by a French and Italian partnership, the aircraft has been involved in several deadly accidents over the years. In Taiwan, two accidents involving ATR 72-500 and ATR 72-600 aircraft in 2014 and 2015 led to the planes being grounded for a period.

ATR identified the plane involved in Sunday’s crash as an ATR 72-500 in a tweet. According to plane tracking data from, the aircraft was 15 years old and “equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data.” It was previously flown by India’s Kingfisher Airlines and Thailand’s Nok Air before Yeti acquired it in 2019, according to records on

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Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR 72-500 planes, company spokesperson Sudarshan Bartaula said.

Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Mt. Everest, has a history of air crashes. Sunday’s crash was Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it plowed into a hill as it tried to land in Kathmandu.

According to a 2019 safety report from the Civil Aviation Authority, the country’s “hostile topography” and “diverse weather patterns” are the biggest dangers to flights in the country. The report said such accidents happened at airports that had short runway strips for takeoff and landing and most were due to pilot error.

The European Union has banned airlines from Nepal from flying into the 27-nation bloc since 2013, citing weak safety standards. In 2017, the International Civil Aviation Organization cited improvements in Nepal’s aviation sector, but the EU continues to demand administrative reforms.