51 dead in Nepal plane crash; airport denies responsibility

By Sara Shayanian  |  March 13, 2018 at 8:17 AM
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March 13 (UPI) -- Airport authorities in Nepal said they aren't responsible for confusion that led to a plane crash Monday that killed more than 50 people.

The plane crashed on approach at Kathmandu International Airport and burst into flames. Officials said it attempted to land from the wrong direction.

Officials have increased the death toll to 51. The Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 plane was carrying 71 passengers when it crashed.

Twenty-two Nepalis, 28 Bangladeshis and a Chinese passenger died in the accident, making the crash the third-deadliest aviation accident involving an international carrier in Nepal. The cause is unclear, but the airline blames air traffic controllers.

"There were wrong directions from the tower. Our pilot was not at fault," US-Bangla Airlines CEO Imran Asif said. "Our pilot is an instructor of this Bombardier aircraft. His flight hours are over 5,000. There was a fumble from the control tower."

Raj Kumar Chhetri, general manager for Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport, said the airport is not at fault.

"We strictly condemn the comments from the Bangladeshi authorities that Nepal's airport control gave wrong signals," Chhetri told CNN. "Our airport control staff are internationally-trained. We had over-communicated everything to the pilots. We repeatedly asked the pilots to land from the correct side of the runway."

Survivors described a "loud bang" before Monday's crash landing. Witnesses said people cried, prayed and chanted as the plane shook before landing.

"All of the sudden the plane shook violently and there was a loud bang," passenger Basanta Bohora said from a hospital. "I was seated near a window and was able to break out."

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