Scores of rescuers and onlookers gathered near a steep gorge outside the resort town in central Nepal where a regional passenger plane crashed on Sunday as rescuers combed through debris on the edge of a cliff and in the ravine below.

So far, 68 people have been confirmed dead after a regional passenger plane with 72 on board plunged into a gorge while landing at the newly opened airport in the resort city of Pokhara, according to a statement posted on Twitter by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority. It is the country’s deadliest plane crash in three decades.

It was not immediately clear what caused the accident.

Plane crash in Nepal
Nepalese rescue workers and civilians gather near the wreckage of a passenger plane that crashed in Pokhara, Nepal, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. Nepalese authorities said 68 people were killed after a regional passenger plane with 72 on board plunged into a gorge while landing in the recently opened airport of the resort city of Pokhara. It is the country’s deadliest plane crash in three decades.

Krishna Mani Baral / OP

A witness said he saw the plane spinning violently in the air after it began to land, watching from the terrace of his home. Gaurav Gurung said the plane nose-dived to the left and then fell into a gorge.

At the wreckage site near the Seti River, about 1.6 kilometers (nearly a mile) from Pokhara International Airport, rescuers sprayed fire hoses and pulled ropes to another smoldering part of the wreckage below. Firefighters took some bodies burned beyond recognition to hospitals, where grief-stricken relatives gathered. At Kathmandu airport, the family members appeared distraught as they were escorted away and sometimes exchanged heated words with officials as they waited for information.

“After the crash, the plane caught fire. There was smoke everywhere,” Gurung said.

Aviation authorities said the plane last contacted the airport in the Seti Gorge area at 10:50 a.m. before crashing.

The twin-engine ATR 72, operated by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, was flying from the capital Kathmandu to Pokhara, a 27-minute flight. There were 68 passengers on board, including 15 foreign nationals, as well as four crew members, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said in a statement. Among the foreigners were five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France. No survivors have been found yet.

Tek Bahadur KS, Kaski District Senior Administrative Officer, said he expected rescuers to find more bodies at the bottom of the gorge.

Images and videos posted on Twitter showed plumes of smoke rising from the crash site as rescuers, Nepalese soldiers and crowds of people gathered around the wreckage to search for survivors. The plane’s fuselage was broken into several pieces that were scattered across the gorge.

Plane crash in Nepal
Local residents watch the wreckage of a passenger plane in Pokhara, Nepal, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. A passenger plane with 72 people on board crashed near Pokhara International Airport in Nepal, the Kathmandu Post daily newspaper reported. There were 68 passengers and four crew members on board the plane.

Yunish Gurung / OP

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who rushed to the airport after the crash, set up a team to investigate the accident.

“The incident was tragic. All the forces of the Nepalese army and police were involved in the rescue,” he said.

South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it was still trying to confirm the fate of the two South Korean passengers and sent officials to the scene. Russian Ambassador to Nepal Aleksei Novikov confirmed the death of four Russian citizens who were on board the plane.

This type of aircraft, the ATR 72, was used by several airlines around the world for short regional flights. Introduced in the late 1980s by a French-Italian partnership, this aircraft model has suffered several fatal crashes over the years. In 2018, an ATR 72 of Iran’s Aseman Airlines crashed in a foggy mountainous region, killing all 65 people on board.

In Taiwan, two previous accidents involving an ATR 72-500 and an ATR 72-600 occurred months apart.

In July 2014, a TransAsia ATR 72-500 crashed while attempting to land in the scenic Penghu Archipelago between Taiwan and China, killing 48 people. An ATR 72-600 of the same Taiwanese airline crashed shortly after takeoff in Taipei in February 2015 after one of its engines failed and the other was shut down, apparently by mistake.

The 2015 crash, captured on dramatic video footage of the out-of-control plane slamming into a taxi, killed 43 people and forced authorities to temporarily ground all Taiwan-registered ATR 72s. TransAsia suspended all flights in 2016, and then stopped working.

ATR identified the plane involved in Sunday’s crash as an ATR 72-500 in a tweet. According to the plane’s tracking data from, the plane was 15 years old and “equipped with an old transponder with unreliable data.” According to records on, it was previously flown by India’s Kingfisher Airlines and Thailand’s Nok Air before Yeti took over in 2019.

Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR72-500 aircraft, company spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula said.

Pokhara, located 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Kathmandu, is the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, a popular hiking trail in the Himalayas. The city’s new international airport started operating only two weeks ago. It was built with the construction and financial support of China. China’s ambassador to Nepal, Chen Song, tweeted that he was “very shocked” to learn of the accident.

“Our thoughts are with the Nepali people at this difficult time. I would like to express my deepest condolences to the victims and my sincere condolences to the families of the deceased,” he wrote.

Sunday’s crash was the deadliest in Nepal since 1992, when all 167 people on board a Pakistan International Airlines plane crashed into a hill while trying to land in Kathmandu.

Home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest, Nepal has a history of plane crashes. According to the Flight Safety Foundation’s aviation safety database, there have been 42 fatal plane crashes in Nepal since 1946.

Last year, 22 people died in a plane crash on a mountainside in Nepal. In 2016, a Tara Air Twin Otter plane flying from Pokhara to Kathmandu crashed after takeoff, killing all 23 people on board.

In 2012, an Agni Air plane flying from Pokhara to Jomsom crashed, killing 15 people. Six people survived. In 2014, a Nepal Airlines plane flying from Pokhara to Jumla crashed, killing all 18 people on board.

In 1992, all 167 people on board a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it crashed into a hill while trying to land in Kathmandu.

The European Union has banned airlines from Nepal from flying to the bloc’s 27 countries since 2013, citing lax safety standards. In 2017, the International Civil Aviation Organization noted improvements in Nepal’s aviation sector, but the EU continues to demand administrative reforms.

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