Four friends from India who were on board started excitedly documenting the descent on a Facebook live video moments before Nepal’s deadliest aviation accident in decades on Sunday.
They were on their way to Pokhara for the adventure of a lifetime, planning to paraglide over Nepal’s renowned Annapurna mountain range and see temples. On the footage, one of the men can be heard saying, “It’s pretty enjoyable,” as he surveys the city below as the plane starts to descend. As the camera pans to a beaming Sonu Jaiswal, a 29-year-old father of three who managed a small business back in India, the buddies can be heard joking and laughing.
There are no emergency statements or cautions from the captain or crew, and everything seems normal within the aircraft. But then, with a loud roar, it seems to take a sharp turn, and the phone camera records the noises of the plane crashing to the ground before the screen bursts into flames. Before the picture goes black, the flaming wreckage of the airplane is briefly visible. After then, no more voices can be heard.
The terrifying video shows that the 68 passengers and four crew members on the Yeti Airlines aircraft were unaware that the jet was in danger until an explosion occurred as it was about to touch down.
The four individuals heard in the video’s close buddy Vishal Koswal, 21, confirmed the video’s veracity.
He identified the four men as Abhishek Singh Kushwaha, 23, Vishal Sharma, 28, Anil Rajbhar, 29, and Jaiswal, 29, all of whom were from the Uttar Pradeshi area of Ghazipur and had departed for Nepal on January 12. Their identities were also verified by the local police.
Koswal claimed that he had intended to travel to Nepal with his four buddies but was forced to stay at home due to the passing of a cousin. He had spoken to them on video call numerous times during their vacation, including a few hours prior to the accident.
“Sonu was showing us the mountains around on the call and was clearly excited, so were we,” said Koswal. “He told me on that call that after landing in Pokhara, they would visit some temples there and then in the evening take a train back home.”
He referred to the four buddies as “brothers” and said that the atmosphere was “extremely emotional” for everyone in the vicinity. I still can’t believe we lost all of them, he continued, adding that everything seemed like a nightmare. “Watching that crash footage again would be extremely unpleasant and difficult. A terrible disaster has befallen us.
Rescuers continued their search for the final four victims in the wreckage on Monday. The officials declared that there was no chance for surviving. On Monday, Nepal’s prime minister proclaimed a day of national mourning.
There were 15 international passengers on the plane, including the group of Indian friends. 57 Nepalis, five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, one each from Argentina, UK, Australia, and France were on board the flight. Just before it was scheduled to touch down at Pokhara’s brand-new international airport, it fell into a gorge.
It was the deadliest aviation accident to affect Nepal since a Pakistan International Airlines flight that crashed on the approach to Kathmandu in 1992, killing 167 people on board.
The fire and thick smoke, as well as the treacherous terrain, made the rescue efforts by police and army officers challenging. Soldiers used ropes and stretchers to retrieve bodies from the 300-metre (1,000ft) deep ravine late into the night on Sunday. “We have so far sent 63 bodies to the hospital,” said police officer AK Chhetri on Monday.
Arun Tamu, 44, who was about 500 metres away from the site where the plane crashed, told AFP news agency he was among those who ran to the site to try to help. “A few of us rushed to see if we can rescue anybody. I saw at least two women were breathing. The fire was getting very intense and it made it difficult for us to approach closer,” he said.
In recent years, Nepal’s aviation sector has flourished, transporting commodities and people to remote locations as well as international trekkers and climbers. Yet, it has also suffered from poor safety as a result of inadequate maintenance and training. Both the May 2022 accident of a Tara Air flight carrying 22 people and the March 2018 disaster of a US-Bangla Airlines flight in Kathmandu each claimed the lives of 51 people.
Because to safety concerns, the European Union has barred all Nepal airlines from using its airspace.