A plane carrying a group of trekkers to the Everest region has crashed in Kathmandu, killing all 19 people on board, officials said today. The aircraft belonging Sita Air ran into trouble soon after taking off from the capital’s Tribhuvan International Airport at around 6 a.m. Officials said the pilot of the twin-propeller Dornier has radioed air traffic controllers telling them the plane had hit a bird on takeoff and was trying to return to the airport. Witnesses on the ground said the pilot attempted a crash landing by the banks of the Manohara River, which runs parallel to the airport, and burst into flames as soon as it touched the ground. Police spokesman Binod Singh said the dead included seven British nationals, five Chinese and seven Nepalese, including the aircraft’s three crewmembers. Rescuers described grim scenes at the crash site. They said flames from the wreckage were reaching up to 20 meters in the air and that the intense heat prevented them from looking for survivors. We were not able to get inside to conduct rescue operations. “We could hear blasts from the parts and engines of the aircraft,” said policeman Bhagwan Bhandari. Nepal has numerous airports to serve a brisk trade in trekking and tourism, many of them in remote areas and in mountainous terrain where accidents involving small aircraft are not uncommon. In September last year, a plane crashed into a hillside just outside of Kathmandu killing all 19 passengers. In May last year, 15 people were killed when a small plane crashed on approach to a high-altitude airport in Jomsom.
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