NEW DELHI (AP) — Airplane passenger Sonu Jaiswal’s 90-second smartphone video begins with the plane skimming over buildings and lush fields above the Nepalese city of Pokhara in the foothills of the Himalayas as it approaches the runway.
Everything seemed normal as Jaiswal’s livestream on Facebook shifted from the picturesque views seen from the window of the plane to those laughing. At the end, Jaiswal, dressed in a yellow sweater, turned the camera towards him and smiled.
Then this happened.
Jaiswal’s smartphone briefly captured the passengers’ screams as the plane suddenly veered onto its left side. Within seconds the footage became shaky and the screeching sound of an engine was recorded. At the end of the video, huge flames and smoke engulfed the entire frame.
The Yeti Airlines flight from Kathmandu that plunged into a gorge on Sunday, killing all 72 people on board, was co-piloted by Anju Khatiwada, who headed the United Airlines after her husband’s death in a 2006 plane crash. Took pilot training in the United States. Same airline. Her colleagues described her as a skilled pilot who was highly motivated.
The deaths of Khatiwada, 44, and Jaiswal, 25, are part of a deadly pattern in Nepal, a country that has seen a series of air crashes over the years, partly due to difficult terrain, inclement weather and an aging fleet.
On Tuesday, officials began returning some of the identified bodies to family members and said they were sending the data recorders of the ATR 72-500 aircraft for analysis to determine what caused the crash.
In the Indian city of Ghazipur, about 430 kilometers (270 mi) south of the crash site in Nepal, Jaiswal’s family was distraught and still waiting to identify his body. His father, Rajendra Prasad Jaiswal, had boarded a car for Kathmandu on Monday evening and was expected to reach Nepal’s capital late Tuesday night.
Jaiswal’s brother Deepak Jaiswal said, “It’s been a tough wait.”
Deepak said the news of Jaiswal’s plane crashing in Pokhara reached his home minutes after the crash, as news channels started airing pictures of the damaged wreckage of the plane, which was still burning and turned dark gray. Smoke is coming out.
Still, the family was unwilling to believe the news, and held out hope for his survival.
Although it was cleared by Sunday evening. Deepak, who confirmed the authenticity of Jaiswal’s livestream to The Associated Press, was among the first in his family to watch the video that has since gone viral on the Internet.
“We didn’t believe the news until we saw the video,” he said. “it was painful.”
Jaiswal, a father of three children, worked at a local liquor shop in Alawalpur Afga village in Ghazipur district of Uttar Pradesh state. Deepak said his brother had gone to Kathmandu to visit the Pashupatinath temple – a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva – and prayed for a son before going to Pokhara for sightseeing with three other friends.
“He was not just my brother,” said Deepak. “I’ve lost a friend in that.”
The tragedy was felt deeply in Nepal, where 53 of the passengers were locals.
Hundreds of relatives and friends of the victims consoled each other at a hospital on Tuesday. Families of some of the victims whose bodies have been identified are preparing for last rites for their loved ones.
Co-pilot Khatiwada’s colleagues were still in disbelief.
Yeti Airlines spokesman Pemba Sherpa said of Khatiwada, “She was a very good pilot and very experienced.”
Khatiwada started flying for Yeti Airlines in 2010 – four years after her husband Deepak Pokharel died in a crash. He was flying a DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 aircraft for the same airline when it crashed in Nepal’s Jumla district and burst into flames, killing all nine people on board. Khatiwada later remarried.
Sherpa said Khatiwada was a “skilled pilot” with a “friendly nature” and had risen to the rank of captain after flying thousands of hours since joining the airline.
“We have lost our best,” said the Sherpa.
Associated Press reporter Piyush Nagpal contributed to this report.
This version has corrected the year Khatiwada started flying for the airline to be 2010, not 2020.