Co-pilot of downed Nepal passenger plane was widow of pilot killed in 2006 crash
Searchers recover cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder from crash that killed at least 68
In 2010, Anju Khatiwada joined Nepal's Yeti Airlines, following in the footsteps of her husband, a pilot who had died in a crash four years earlier when a small passenger plane he was flying for the domestic carrier went down minutes before landing.
On Sunday, Khatiwada, 44, was the co-pilot on a Yeti Airlines flight from Kathmandu that crashed as it approached the city of Pokhara, killing at least 68 people in the Himalayan nation's deadliest plane accident in three decades.
No survivors have been found so far among the 72 people on board.
"Her husband, Dipak Pokhrel, died in 2006 in a crash of a Twin Otter plane of Yeti Airlines in Jumla," airline spokesman Sudarshan Bartaula told Reuters, referring to Khatiwada. "She got her pilot training with the money she got from the insurance after her husband's death."
A pilot with more than 6,400 hours of flying time, Khatiwada had previously flown the popular tourist route from the capital, Kathmandu, to the country's second-largest city, Pokhara, Bartaula said.
The body of Kamal K.C., the captain of the flight, who had more than 21,900 hours of flight time, has been recovered and identified.
Kathiwada's remains have not been identified but she is feared dead, Bartaula said.
"On Sunday, she was flying the plane with an instructor pilot, which is the standard procedure of the airline," said a Yeti Airlines official, who knew Khatiwada personally.
"She was always ready to take up any duty and had flown to Pokhara earlier," said the official, who asked not to be named because he isn't authorized to speak to media.
Reuters was unable to immediately reach any of her family members.
The ATR-72 aircraft that Khatiwada was co-piloting rolled from side to side before crashing in a river gorge near Pokhara airport and catching fire, according to eyewitness accounts and a video of the crash posted on social media.
It remains unclear what caused the crash, the Himalayan country's deadliest airplane accident in three decades. The weather was mild and not windy on the day of the crash.
Ground shook like an earthquake, says witness
A witness who recorded footage of the plane's descent from his balcony said he saw the plane flying low before it suddenly veered to its left. "I saw that and I was shocked. I thought that today everything will be finished here after it crashes, I will also be dead," said Diwas Bohora.
After it crashed, red flames erupted and the ground shook violently, like an earthquake, Bohora said. "I was scared. Seeing that scene, I was scared."
Another witness said he saw the aircraft twist violently in the air after it began descending to land, watching from the terrace of his house. Finally, Gaurav Gurung said, the plane fell nose-first toward its left and crashed into the gorge.
The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder from the aircraft, which may help investigators determine what caused it to crash in clear weather, were recovered on Monday.
Both recorders were in good shape and would be sent for analysis based on the recommendation of the manufacturer, Teknath Sitaula, an official at the Kathmandu airport, told Reuters on Monday.
Rescuers were battling cloudy weather and poor visibility as they scoured the river gorge where the plane crashed.
Nearly 350 people have died since 2000 in plane or helicopter crashes in Nepal — home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, including Everest — where sudden weather changes can make for hazardous conditions.
With files from The Associated Press