THT 10 years ago: None survives chopper crash; wreckage spotted in Lelep

Kathmandu, September 25, 2006

All 20 passengers and four crew members on board the Shree Airlines helicopter 9N-AHJ (MI-17) that crashed in Phale Danda in Lelep VDC, a mile away from Ghunsa, Taplejung district on Saturday, were confirmed dead today.

A team of five rescue climbers and two World Wide Fund for Nature staffers located the crash site scattered with bodies and helicopter wreckage.

All the bodies except one are beyond recognition, according to sources.

“Not a single person on board the helicopter survived the crash,” said Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, chief of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal’s (CAAN) Aviation Safety Department. Prominent among the deceased are Minister of State for Forest and Soil Conservation Gopal Rai, Finnish Charge d’ Affaires Pauli Mustonen, former minister Dr Harka Gurung and WWF top officials.

The chopper is presumed to have crashed on a mountain ridge in Phale while taking a turn just 1.85 km from Ghunsa, said Suman. Upon locating the crash site south west of Ghunsa, the team got in touch with the Nepal Army personnel at Taplejung airport at 1.17 pm today.

The helicopters that w ere on standby at Taplejung airport, Suketar VDC, could not fly to the site due to bad weather and low visibility.

The rescue team with the help of locals and additional rescue climbers who went to the crash site today lifted as many dead bodies as they could to the temporary helipad near the accident site, said Suman.

All the bodies will be flown to Kathmandu on Tuesday, he said.

Rains wreak havoc outside Valley

Floods and incessant rain for the last several days are wreaking havoc in central and eastern Nepal. Four persons were killed and hundreds of heads of cattle were swept away.

Life is crippled in the central districts of Sindhupalchowk, Dhanusha and Rautahat and in eastern districts of Mahottari, Udaypur and Siraha. Roads are submerged and damaged, traffic has been halted, government offices, schools and colleges and business establishments are shut.

In Sindhupalchowk, four of a family died at Simle of Thokarpa VDC last night when Krishna Bahadur Nepali’s house collapsed and buried alive his daughters Kalpana, 16, and Samjhana, 12, son Sambar Bahadur, 10, and granddaughter Alisha, 4.

The District Administration Office has provided Rs 4,000 for the dead children’s funeral rites, said CDO Jivan Prasad Oli. In Mahottari, the Ratu river swept away eight houses at Dhabauli of Jaleshwor municipality.

Over 500 houses in two dozen VDCs are waterlogged. At Gehaha Bathanaha, 250 houses are waterlogged.

Police are busy in rescue work and rescued persons have been kept at a local school, said SP Rana Bahadur Chand.