Six killed in Nepal tourist chopper crash near Mount Everest

The chopper went missing in Solukhunvhu district, home to Mount Everest and other high mountain peaks, authorities say.

Mount Everest
The chopper was returning to Kathmandu from Surke in Solukhunvhu district [File: Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters]

Six people have been killed after a helicopter carrying foreign tourists crashed near Mount Everest in Nepal, according to officials.

The aircraft operated by Manang Air was carrying five Mexican nationals and a Nepali pilot returning to the capital, Kathmandu, after a sightseeing trip to the world’s highest peak on Tuesday.

It had taken off at 10:04am (04:19 GMT) from Surke in Solukhunvhu district, home to Mount Everest and other high mountain peaks, but lost contact about 10 minutes later and crashed in the Lamajura area.

Airport official Sagar Kadel said weather conditions forced changes to the helicopter’s planned flight route. It is common for flights to be delayed and routes changed during the monsoon season amid heavy rains.

Rescuers recovered the bodies of five people and continued their search for the sixth person, said Basanta Bhattarai, the chief government administrator in the area. However, they found the sixth body later.

The tourist and mountaineering season ended in May with the onset of the rainy season, and tourist flights to the mountains are less common this time of year as visibility is poor and weather conditions become unpredictable.

The crash comes almost six months after a plane crash in western Nepal, which killed all 72 people on board. The Himalayan country has some of the world’s most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even for accomplished pilots.

The weather can also change quickly in the mountains, creating treacherous flying conditions.

In addition, Nepal’s aviation sector has been plagued by poor safety due to insufficient training and maintenance. The European Union has banned all Nepali carriers from its airspace over safety concerns.

Source: News Agencies