Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 March 2018

At least 49 killed in Kathmandu plane crash

Bangla Airlines CEO blames airport control for tragedy

Forty-nine people were killed and 22 injured when a Bangladeshi passenger plane crashed while landing at Kathmandu airport on Monday.

"Forty people died at the spot and nine died at two hospitals in Kathmandu," police spokesman Manoj Neupane said, adding that another 22 were injured.

There were 67 passengers and four crew on board the Bangla Airlines flight from Dhaka. Airline spokesman Kamrul Islam said 33 of the passengers were Nepali, 32 were Bangladeshi, one was Chinese and one from the Maldives.

The plane was a Canadian-made Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop, Mahbubur Rahman of Bangladesh's civil aviation ministry told AFP. Other sources said the aircraft was 17 years old.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, but a statement from airport authorities said the plane was "out of control" as it came in to land.

The chief executive of US-Bangla Airlines, Imran Asif, laid blame on Kathmandu's air traffic control, saying the controller "fumbled" the landing.

"Our pilot is an instructor of this Bombardier aircraft. His flight hours are over 5,000 hours. There was a fumble from the control tower," Mr Asif said.

Air traffic tracker Flightradar24 Tweeted the last 12 minutes of the flight, from the moment the plane dropped to 11,600 feet, descended a further 7,200 feet before briefly ascending 2,200 feet and crashing at 08.33 UTC.

The plane swerved repeatedly as it prepared to land in Kathmandu, said Amanda Summers, an American working in Nepal. The crowded city sits in a valley in the Himalayan foothills.

"It was flying so low I thought it was going to run into the mountains," said Summers, who watched the crash from the terrace of her home office, not far from the airport. "All of a sudden there was a blast and then another blast."

Clouds of thick smoke could be seen rising from the plane, which was on a field at the edge of the airport.

Fire crews put out the flames quickly, perhaps within a minute, said Ms Summers.

The plane had circled the airport twice as it waited for clearance to land, Mohammed Selim, the airline's manager in Kathmandu, told Dhaka-based Somoy TV station by telephone.

Nitin Keyal was about to board a domestic flight when he saw the plane coming in.

"It was flying very low," said Mr Keyal, a medical student. "Everyone just froze looking at it. You could tell it wasn't a normal landing."

He said it landed just off the runway, broke apart and burst into flames. "For a few minutes no one could believe what was happening. It was just terrible," he said.

Most of the injured were brought to Kathmandu Medical College, the closest hospital to the airport, where relatives wept as they awaited news.

News of the crash comes just one day after a Turkish plane with 11 people on board, all women, crashed in Iran. Iranian media said the plane went down in remote mountains in the snow-capped Zagros range during bad weather, killing all passengers on board.