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Minister Adhikari, six others, dead
By Purushottam P. Khatri
Kathmandu, Feb. 28: Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Prasad Adhikari and six others died in a helicopter crash on Wednesday afternoon.
The high-profile passengers were confirmed dead in an Air Dynasty helicopter crash in Taplejung, near Shisne Khola, while returning to Tehrathum from the famous Pathivara shrine in Taplejung.
According to General Manager of Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) Raj Kumar Chhetri, six passengers and a crew captain Prabhakar KC, who had flown the helicopter with a call sign AS350, were confirmed dead in the accident that occurred at 1:30 pm.
Other deceased were identified as Under Secretary at the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers Yubaraj Dahal, tourism entrepreneur, managing director of Yeti Airlines and chairman of Air Dynasty Ang Tshering Sherpa, Minister Adhikari’s bodyguard Arjun Ghimire, Deputy Director General of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) Birendra Shrestha and CAAN’s regional director Dhruba Das Bhochhibhoya.
According to a preliminary report, the chopper crashed due to bad weather as the accident site in Taplejung had witnessed a heavy snowfall at the time of accident.
The charred bodies of all the passengers and crew were recovered by the rescue team of local policemen deployed on the spot, said Chhetri.
The accident took place while the helicopter passengers were returning from a visit of Pathibhara temple and were en-route to take stock of the possibility of a proposed airport to be constructed at Chuhandanda in Tehrathum district.
The helicopter was flown to Tehrathum from the TIA at 8:30 am this morning, according to Chhetri.
Later, two helicopters - MI-17 and a bell- of Nepali Army reached Taplejung to lift the bodies to Kathmandu, according to NA spokesperson and Brigadier General Yam Prasad Dhakal.
“We are effortful to bring the bodies to the capital by Wednesday night if the weather condition improves and allows us to bring all the bodies to the local Suketar airport from the crash site,” Dhakal said.
Nepali Army and the Nepal Police have jointly conducted the rescue operation at the crash site, said the NA.
As of 7: 00 pm on Wednesday, four bodies were airlifted to Suketar airport while three others were on the way to the airport. They were being carried through a trail, said spokesperson Dhakal.
All the bodies are likely to arrive in Kathmandu only on Thursday due to bad weather, he said.
The government has announced Thursday as a public holiday to mourn the deaths.
Twelve years ago, state Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation Gopal Rai and 23 conservation experts had died in a tragic helicopter crash in Ghunsa, Taplejung.
Meanwhile, RSS adds: adverse weather has affected the task of collecting bodies crash victims.
Although there was no situation to land the helicopter of the Nepal Army at the incident site, four bodies have been collected and brought to the Suketar airport using ropes to airlift the bodies.
Problem has been surfaced to bring other remaining bodies as snowfall has been taking place at Darebhir of Taplejung. A night vision helicopter of the NA is now at Suketar airport.