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113 Feared Dead in Nepal Crash; 100 Die in China : Air disaster: Thai jetliner slams into Himalayan hillside during heavy monsoon rains.

August 01, 1992|From Associated Press

KATMANDU, Nepal — A Thai Airways jetliner carrying 113 people, including 11 Americans, crashed into a Himalayan hillside in heavy monsoon rains Friday, minutes after the pilot reported a technical problem.

Airport officials said they doubted that anyone survived among the 99 passengers and 14 crew members. The plane was bound for Katmandu from Bangkok, Thailand, when it crashed in a mountain pine forest.

Most of those aboard apparently were tourists.

An airport official in Katmandu reported that more than 300 soldiers and rescuers were approaching the crash site, but the going was rough because of the rain.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he doubted there were survivors.

Air traffic control at the Katmandu airport lost contact with the Thai Airways A310-300 Airbus near the village of Simra in the foothills of the Himalayas 47 miles south of the airport, the airline said.

Alerted by villagers, troops and police at a remote outpost north of Simra located the wreckage in a forested area at 8,500 feet elevation, the vice president of Thai Airways, Chatrachai Bunya-Ananta, told reporters in Bangkok.

The region is in central Nepal, 30 miles south of Katmandu. The crash site itself is a three-hour walk from the Shimbhjyng mountain pass, which connects Katmandu and the southern town of Bhainse.

The pass snakes around hills and traverses steep mountains, some as high as 9,000 feet.

Ghimire declined to speculate about what could have caused the crash.

But he said that when the jet was 15 minutes from Katmandu, the pilot reported a technical hitch. A few minutes later, however, the pilot said the problem had been overcome.

"I am OK now and coming in to land from Simra," Ghimire quoted the captain as saying in the final contact.

"After that there was no sign of the plane," he said.

At about the same time, air traffic controllers in the Indian city of Calcutta, 400 miles to the southeast, also lost contact with the aircraft, officials there said.

News of the crash was delayed because of poor communications with the police outpost in the Chisapani jungle near the mountain pass.

Ghimire said he did not know whether rescue teams had reached the site by late Friday. Army, police and civilian medical teams were sent by road because darkness prevented helicopters from flying. Earlier, a seven-hour air search was called off after night fell.

In Bangkok, an airline statement said that besides the 11 Americans, the passengers included 17 Japanese and 23 Nepalese. The plane also carried five Belgians, five Finns, four Germans, three Spaniards, two Thais, two Koreans, two Israelis, two Britons, two Canadians, one New Zealander and one Australian.

One of the Canadians was Duncan Norrie, a son of Mayor Bill Norrie of Winnipeg, Manitoba, reported a Canadian External Affairs spokeswoman, Nicole Martel. Norrie had been working for an engineering company in Asia.

Katmandu is a popular tourist destination and the staging point for mountain climbing teams to the world's highest peaks, including Mt. Everest.

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