Ram Khatry I 14 April 2019: A Twin Otter plane belonging to a private airlines company has crashed into two parked helicopters at the Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Nepal, often considered one of the “most dangerous airports in the world”.
The freak accident occurred as the light passenger aircraft with registration 9N-AMH ploughed into the helicopters of Manang Air and Shree Air during take off. A Facebook video shows the Summit Air plane veer off to the right as petrified onlookers cry hysterically.
The accident claimed three lives while three others were airlifted to the Grande International Hospital in the capital city.
Speaking with southasia.com.au over telephone, spokesperson for Nepal Police SSP Uttam Raj Subedi said co-pilot of Summit Air S. Dhungana and Assistant Sub-Inspector Ram Bahadur Khadka were killed at the scene of the accident. Assistant Sub-Inspector Rudra Bahadur Shrestha, who was airlifted to Kathmandu and treated at the Grande Hospital, later succumbed to his fatal injuries, the Senior Superintendent of Police confirmed.
Asked if weather at the airport had played a role in the tragic crash, the police spokesperson maintained it was not up to Nepal Police to comment on the technical aspects of the mishap but agreed that weather was “partially clouded” when the accident took place Sunday morning Nepal time.
The mishap happened, unfortunately, as Nepalese people prepared to celebrate the first day of their New Year.
Captain Rabindra Rokaya, who was flying the Summit Air aircraft, and Captain Chet Gurung of Manang Air, who was in his helicopter after landing at the airport, were injured during the crash at the Lukla airport which proudly sits atop an elevation of 2860 metres above the sea level.
Captain Rokaya is already home following treatment at the Grande Hospital, says Sydney-based journalist Manarishi Dhital, a friend to the first pilot from the remote Karnali Province of the mountain republic.
Chilling videos of the crash are beginning to appear in social media with one particular video, posted by one Pawan Lama Sherpa, showing frantic moments leading up to the Twin Otter’s crash into the parked helicopters. Mr Lama’s video shows the plane preparing to take off but suddenly skidding off the runway amid hysteric cries from onlookers.
According to Mr Dhital, who doubles as the Australia correspondent for one of Nepal’s most popular digital media outlets, Captain Rabindra Rokaya is the first person from the remote Karnali Province to have become an aircraft pilot and as such, is a very popular man in his native Jumla district.
Captain Rokaya’s Facebook profile appears to complement Mr Dhital’s claim about his friend.
Warning: Below video contains footage some viewers may find disturbing.
“His father Panna Lal Rokaya worked extremely hard to provide for his education so that he could become a pilot,” Mr Dhital told southasia.com.au.
Captain Rokaya apparently had opportunities to work overseas but chose to stay back in Nepal “because of love of motherland”, Mr Dhital stated. Mr Rokaya is also one of the co-owners of the Summit Air.
“I am okay and have arrived home,” Mr Dhital said quoting the captain who no doubt has had a close call.