A passenger on a flight that crashed in Nepal on Sunday, killing at least 68 people, captured the exact moment of the fatal incident in a video he shared to social media.
The ATR 72 aircraft, carrying 72 people, crashed just before landing in the tourist city of Pokhara, becoming Nepal’s deadliest plane crash in 30 years, officials said on Monday.
Taken just minutes before the ill-fated Yeti Airlines aircraft crashed, the video which was streamed on Facebook Live, showed the now-deceased passenger smiling as he captured scenes from the inside and outside of the plane.
It showed the moment the plane crashed into a gorge and caught fire. As the camera continued to roll, it caught glimpses of the plane going up in flames for at least 30 seconds, when the screams of panicked passengers could be heard.
The man who took the video and was livestreaming it on Facebook was identified by the Times of India as Sonu Jaiswal, 29, who was heading to Pokhara with his friends to go paragliding.
His cousin, Rajat Jaiswal, confirmed Sonu’s identity in a Facebook post.
“Sonu was on Facebook Live after boarding the flight for Pokhara. The live-streaming showed that Sonu and his companions were in a happy mood but all of a sudden flames appeared before the streaming stopped,” he said.
Sonu’s friends who accompanied him on the flight were identified as Anil Rajbhar, 28, Vishal Sharma, 23, and Abhishek Singh Kushwaha, 23. The four men landed in the Nepali capital of Kathmandu on January 13 after performing puja, a ceremonial worship for Hindus, at the Pashupatinath temple.
Searchers on Monday found both the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder from the flight, which will help investigators determine what caused the flight to crash in clear weather just before landing.
Both recorders were in good shape and would be sent for analysis based on the recommendation of the manufacturer, Teknath Sitaula, an official at the Kathmandu airport, told Reuters on Monday.
Rescuers were battling cloudy weather and poor visibility as they scoured the river gorge for passengers who are unaccounted for, more than 24 hours after the crash. Sixty-eight bodies have been recovered.
Reuters footage from the crash site showed rescuers looking at the charred remains of the plane near a gorge in the mountains.
The plane, on a scheduled flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara, gateway to the scenic Annapurna mountain range, was carrying 57 Nepalis, five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one person each from Argentina, Ireland, Australia and France.
Pokhara police official Ajay K.C. said the search-and-rescue operation, which stopped because of darkness on Sunday, had resumed.
“We will take out the five bodies from the gorge and search for the remaining four that are still missing,” he told Reuters. “It is cloudy now... causing a problem in the search.”
The other 63 bodies had been sent to a hospital, he said. A spokesperson for Pokhara airport also said that the weather was hampering rescue efforts, but that clouds were expected to clear later in the day.
Nearly 350 people have died since 2000 in plane or helicopter crashes in Nepal - home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Everest - where sudden weather changes can make for hazardous conditions.
Experts say air accidents are usually caused by a combination of factors, and investigations can take months or longer.
India’s aviation regulator said it would take all measures to ensure safe aviation in the country’s airspace.
Nepal has declared a day of national mourning on Monday and set up a panel to investigate the disaster and suggest measures to avoid such incidents in future.
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