All six people on board were killed when a private commercial helicopter crashed today near Mount Everest in eastern Nepal. The chopper was carrying five members of a Mexican family on vacation and the Nepali pilot.
The Manang Air helicopter 9N-AMV took off from Surke Airport in Solukhumbu district at 10:04 am for Kathmandu and suddenly lost contact at an altitude above 12,000 feet at 10:13 am, said Gyanendra Bhul, Manager at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).
The helicopter crashed in the Lamjura area of Likhupike Rural Municipality in the remote mountainous Solukhumbu district.
TIA spokesperson Tkeknath Sitaula said all six bodies were found at the crash site during a search operation.
They were returning to Kathmandu from Surke after enjoying a mountain flight. The flight was conducted from Lukla, the gateway to Mount Everest, Sitaula said.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), all five tourists were Mexican nationals and the pilot was Nepalese Captain Chet Bahadur Gurung.
The Mexican victims have been identified as Sifuentes G. Fernando (95) and Rincon Ismael (98), both males, along with three females - Sifuentes Gonzalez Abric (72), Gonzalez Olacio Luz (65) and Sifuentes G. Maria Jese (52).
Gurung, who managed to survive an earlier accident, had flown helicopters for nearly 7,000 hours in the Nepali skies, local media reports said.
Local people and the police who reached the crash site reported all six persons including the pilot dead, officials said.
Two helicopters of Altitude Air mobilised for the rescue operations could not land at the crash site due to adverse weather conditions, the CAAN said, adding that the helicopters have now landed at Bhakanje of the same district, which is the nearest place to the crash site.
Efforts are being made to transport the dead bodies by ground transportation to the helicopter landing area and further to Kathmandu, it said.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' paid tributes to the victims of the crash, saying the incident has shocked the country.
All six people aboard the chopper have died in the accident, The Kathmandu Post newspaper quoted operation and safety manager of Manang Air Raju Neupane as saying.
District police chief Dipak Shrestha said that the accident is believed to have been caused due to bad weather. (with PTI inputs)