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An aircraft carrying 72 people crashed Sunday in Nepal, leaving at least 68 people dead in the country’s deadliest plane crash in 30 years and the third-deadliest in its history, according to the Aviation Safety Network.
The Yeti Airlines flight was traveling from Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, to Pokhara, a city in the central part of the country where the crash occurred. The cities are about 125 miles apart and just 25 minutes by airplane. Video shows the turboprop regional airliner flying low and appearing to lose control just moments before the disaster. The cause of the crash is still unclear, according to the nation’s aviation authorities.
“By the time I was there the crash site was already crowded,” a resident told BBC News. “There was huge smoke coming from the flames of the plane. And then helicopters came over in no time. The pilot tried his best to not hit civilization or any home. There was a small space right beside the Seti River and the flight hit the ground in that small space,” she added.
The ATR 72-500 aircraft carried 72 people, including four crew members, 53 Nepalese, five Indians, four Russias, two South Koreans, one French passenger, one person from Ireland, one Argentinian, and an Australian.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said in a press release that two helicopters were immediately dispatched upon receiving information of a crash for search and rescue. Included in search and rescue teams were the Nepal Army, police, and the Himalayan Rescue Association. At the time of the press release, 68 bodies had been found. One witness reportedly heard cries for help from the wreckage, according to the Associated Press.
“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,” the witness said.
Pokhara Airport, the flight’s intended destination, opened just 14 days ago. The crash was the second in the past year for the Himalayan country. A plane carrying 22 passengers hit a Himalayan mountainside in May, killing all on board.
“I am speechless about the crash,” Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari said in a statement on Twitter. “I convey my heartfelt condolences to the passengers and the crew members who lost their lives and express my deep sympathy for the family members for their losses.”
All Nepalese airlines have been banned from operating within the European Union since 2013 for lack of safety standards. Nepal has a history of airplane crashes, with 42 fatal ones since 1946, according to the AP. The topography of Nepal is one potential reason, with eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, along with rapid weather changes and aging aircraft.