Nepalgunj, February 26

Minutes before the Air Kasthamandap aircraft, which took off form Nepagunj airport for Jumla, was about to reach its destination, the plane’s engine failed, leading the pilot to opt for a forced landing in a field, which took his and the co-pilot’s life, but saved nine passengers’ lives.

When the plane was in Kalikot skies, it wasn’t at a very high altitude and was passing through hills.

Dhananjaya Khatri of Jumla was sitting beside pilot Dinesh Neupane and was watching everything that the pilot was doing while manoeuvring the plane.

“There was a loud sound and all of a sudden aircraft’s fans stopped functioning and the pilot was pressing buttons in vain.

But he didn’t lose his cool,” said Khatri, who was observing everything from close quarters. The pilot instructed everyone to fasten their seat belts and stay calm.

“While everyone had panicked, fearing for their lives, the pilot shouted out loud and assured them that they would save everyone even by sacrificing their lives.

Suddenly the aircraft hit the ground with a huge noise,” Khatri, who is undergoing treatment for broken leg at the Kohalpur-based Nepalgunj Medical College, told this correspondent.

“Passengers were bleeding and crying for help. When I looked at the pilot, he was motionless. I called him and tugged at him but he didn’t respond and his body was trapped,” Khatri added. Co-pilot Santosh Rana was also seriously injured, said Khatri.

“By the time villagers descended on the scene, the co-pilot had stopped breathing,” he said.

Khatri works at the District Agriculture Development Office in Jumla and owns an agro vet shop in Jumla. He was returning to Jumla after buying stuff for his shop from Nepalgunj.

Another accident victim, Sonali Bhattachan, 16, of Jumla Bazaar, said, “All I remember is that the plane started rotating before hitting the ground.” Sonali studies in Grade X at Chandannath Higher Secondary School in Jumla.