Friends relive moments spent with chopper crash victims

Taplejung, September 27:

Kin of the chopper crash victims are mourning them. Friends and acquaintances of the victims are not far behind.

Neera Shrestha Pradhan, World Wildlife Fund-Nepal’s programme officer, could not contain her tears at Suketar airport here today after seeing a colleague’s body wrapped up like a packet. The same colleague had bidden her farewell before boarding the chopper on


“Have a nice journey,” were her last words to him.

They had left Kathmandu together in the same helicopter, but she had to stay back at Suketar airport that day as there was no room for her in the copter. All the other 24 left Suketar for Ghunsa, leaving her behind.

Neera told Dr Ghana-shyam Gurung of the WWF, “It is very hard for me to board the flight to Kathmandu after this tragedy.”

Gurung himself was in a broken state as all those whom he had accompanied from Kathmandu died in the crash.

Altogether, 28 persons had set out to hand over the Kanchanjungha conservation area project to the management council.

Nine survived because they could not be taken along to Ghunsa. For these nine, the farewell moments with departing colleagues prior to the latter’s taking flight from the army barrack at Taplejung were the last ones of association.

Incidentally, this was meant to be the first instance of handing over a conservation area to the community. Only a day after the hand-over ceremony, the 24 including many VIP dignitaries died in the chopper crash.

Their remains were brought to Suketar airport wrapped in pouches at 1 pm today.

Official of the conservation area project Yugal Kishore Thakur, who reached the airport, said he had never felt so shaken before.

“In spite of steep terrain where the chopper crashed and the inclement weather which hampered operations, the rescue team outdid itself in retrieving the remains of those who died,” said secretary to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Madhav Prasad Ghimire.

The corpses had to be tied with ropes and lowered down the high mountain, said treasurer of the Nepal Mountaineering Association Angkaji Sherpa, adding that 39 locals assisted in the risky mission. “The cooperation extended by the locals of Lelep, Ghunsa and Phale is praiseworthy,” said coordinator of the search mission, Khagendra Bahadur Shrestha.

Meanwhile, locals here closed all government offices, bazaars, factories, and shops as mark of respect for those who died in the crash. Of the 24 who died, central member of the Federation of the Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industries Bijay Kumar Shrestha, and president of the Kanchanjunga Conservation Area Project, Dawa Chhiring Sherpa were natives of Taplejung.