At least 49 people were killed on Monday when a Bangladeshi airliner crashed in cloudy weather as it came in to land at the Nepalese capital’s hill-ringed airport, Reuters reports, citing officials.
Imran Asif, chief executive of US-Bangla Airlines, accused Kathmandu’s air traffic control of giving wrong signals.
But airport general manager Raj Kumar Chettri said the pilot disregarded their messages and came in from the wrong direction.
Seventy-one people were on board the plane arriving from Dhaka when it clipped the fence at Kathmandu and burst into flames, Chettri said.
There were 33 Nepali passengers, 32 from Bangladesh, one from China and one from the Maldives.
The accident was the latest to hit mountainous Nepal, which has a poor record of air safety. Small aircraft ply an extensive domestic network and often run into trouble at remote airstrips.
“So far 49 people are dead and 22 are undergoing treatment at different hospitals,” Sanjiv Gautam, executive director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), told reporters.
Several people were rescued from the burning wreckage of the Bombardier Q400 series aircraft and are undergoing treatment at hospitals, army spokesman Gokul Bhandari said.
Chettri said moments after the plane received permission to land, the pilot said he wanted to go in a northern direction. Asked by the control tower if there was a problem, he replied in the negative.
The plane was then seen making two rounds in a northeast direction, Chettri said. Traffic controllers again asked the pilot if things were OK, and he replied, “Yes.”
The tower then told the pilot his alignment was not correct, but there was no reply, Chettri added.
“The plane should have come from the right direction,” Chettri said, adding that it hit the airport fence, touched the ground and then caught fire.
It was not immediately clear if the pilot had issued a “Mayday” call, or distress signal.
US-Bangla Airlines’ Asif, however, said that wrong signals might have led to the crash.
“A three-minute conversation between the pilot and the air traffic control before the landing indicated that they sent wrong signal to the pilot,” he told reporters in Dhaka.
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