KATHMANDU, Feb 24 (IANS): All 23 people on board a Nepali airliner were on Wednesday killed when it crashed in the mountains of western Nepal early in the morning, officials here said.
The Tara Air Viking 9N-AHH Twin Otter had taken off from the western Nepali tourist resort of Pokhara at 7.47 a.m. for Jomsom from where trekkers usually commence their hike.
Deputy director of Pokhara airport Yogendra Kumar told IANS that the plane, which carried 20 passengers besides a three-member crew, lost contact with the air traffic control (ATC) within minutes of taking off.
The passengers included two infants and two foreign nationals, Kumar said.
The plane remained missing for nearly four hours after losing contact with the Pokhara ATC and its wreckage was found scattered over a forested mountainside in Soli Ghoptebhir of Myagdi district, Civil Aviation Minister Ananda Prasad Pokhrel told news men in Kathmandu.
Citing Nepal Army rescue teams which had reached the crash site, Pokhrel said: "The plane has crashed and all its occupants have been killed."
Located 200 km west of capital Kathmandu, Pokhara is the second largest city of Nepal. It is a popular tourist destination and the kick-off point for climbing expeditions to the 8,091-metre Mt Annapurna.
Jomsom too is the starting point for many trekkers in the Himalayas.
The aircraft was added to the Tara Air fleet last September. Among the occupants were a Chinese national and a Kuwaiti and the others were Nepali nationals, BBC reported.
Army spokesperson Brigadier General Tara Bahadur Karki confirmed that all 23 people aboard the plane were killed in the crash. Karki said a Nepal Army team had reached the crash site and located the wing and tail section of the plane, the Kathmandu Post said.
The plane's wreckage was found after four hours of intense search and rescue operation. Eyewitnesses said the debris of the plane were scattered over a large area and the aircraft was still burning, the report added.
One local said the weather at the site was extremely cold and the area was likely to get rainfall.