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Two Americans were on the Nepali plane that crashed with no survivors

Jan. 18, 2023 Updated Wed., Jan. 18, 2023 at 9:27 p.m.

By Ben Brasch Washington Post

Two Americans and two immigrants who lived in the United States were among the 72 people killed after their plane crashed in Nepal over the weekend, the worst such air disaster for the Himalayan nation in 30 years.

Yeti Airlines Flight 691 departed from the Nepali capital of Kathmandu on Sunday morning. It was supposed to be a 25-minute trip to Pokhara, a city about 125 miles west that is popular with tourists. But authorities were alerted that the plane had plummeted into a gorge 30 minutes after takeoff and about a mile away from the two-week-old airport in Pokhara.

No one survived, authorities said Monday, and authorities on the ground were still sifting through the wreckage to piece together why the aircraft went down.

“Our thoughts are with the families of those on board,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a Wednesday briefing. “The United States stands ready to support Nepal in any way we can at this difficult hour.”

The Washington Post reported earlier that a statement from the airline indicated that at least 53 Nepali nationals and 15 foreign nationals were on the flight – with people hailing from India, Russia, South Korea, Argentina, Australia, France and Ireland.

Price did not name the two Americans and two immigrants living in the United States who died.

The Post has reported on the identities of some who were killed in the airplane crash: an Australian schoolteacher, an Argentine hotelier, a British ballet dancer who had celebrated their 34th birthday the day before, a Nepali folk singer traveling to a local festival and the U.S.-trained co-pilot whose husband also died in a plane crash.

Yeti Airlines spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula told The Post on Tuesday that captain Anju Khatiwada went to Toulouse, France, in 2021 for training on the ATR 72 – the twin-engine turboprop propeller plane involved in Sunday’s flight – and had nearly 6,400 hours of flying experience.

Officials have recovered both black boxes, the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, said a spokesperson for Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. The data recorder will be sent to France for analysis, reported the Associated Press.

Nepal has seen a slew of aviation disasters over the years. Part of the problem is that the landlocked country is home to eight of the world’s 14 tallest mountains.

“The diversity of weather patterns together with hostile topography are the main challenges surrounding aircraft operations in Nepal,” according to a 2019 safety report from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.

The manufacturer of the plane that crashed, ATR Aircraft, is headquartered in France. According to the company’s website, the first ATR 72 flew in October 1988.

Reuters reported that nearly 350 people have died in plane or helicopter crashes in Nepal since 2000. Bloomberg News reported that the European Union has banned all Nepal-based airlines from its airspace since 2013, citing safety concerns.

A crash in the Himalayan Mountains killed 22 people in May who were on a twin-propeller plane of Tara Air, a subsidiary of Yeti Airlines.

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