Co-pilot of doomed Yeti Airlines flight lost husband to earlier crash in Nepal

The co-pilot of the Nepal flight that crashed with 72 people on board had lost her husband in a similar crash in 2006.

Anju Khatiwada was the first officer on the Yeti Airlines flight from the capital, Kathmandu, to the tourist city of Pokhara.

The crash of the twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft killed 68 passengers and crew, with authorities announcing on Monday that hopes of finding any remaining survivors were fading.

Ms Khatiwada, 44, joined the airline in 2010 following the footsteps of her husband, who died in 2006 while flying the domestic carrier which went down minutes before landing, reported Reuters.

“Her husband, Dipak Pokhrel, died in 2006 in a crash of a Twin Otter plane of Yeti Airlines in Jumla,” airline spokesperson Sudarshan Bartaula said. “She got her pilot training with the money she got from the insurance after her husband’s death.”

Anju Khatiwada, the co-pilot of Nepal’s Yeti Airlines flight (Twitter/@Ashoke_Raj)
Anju Khatiwada, the co-pilot of Nepal’s Yeti Airlines flight (Twitter/@Ashoke_Raj)

He added that Ms Khatiwada had more than 6,400 hours of flying time and had previously flown the popular tourist route from the capital to Pokhara.

“She was flying the plane with an instructor pilot, which is the standard procedure of the airline,” an Yeti Airlines official, who knew Ms Khatiwada personally, was quoted as saying. She was always ready to take up any duty and had flown to Pokhara earlier.”

Her remains have not yet been identified.

Pokhara police official Ajay KC said: “We will search for the remaining four that are still missing.

Rescuers stand by wreckage of a passenger plane that crashed in Pokhara (AP)
Rescuers stand by wreckage of a passenger plane that crashed in Pokhara (AP)

“It is cloudy now... causing a problem in the search.”

Meanwhile, authorities announced on Monday that both the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder had been recovered from the wreckage.

It is still unclear what caused the crash, which took place less than a minute’s flight from the plane’s destination, on a mild day amid calm winds.

According to airport officials, the pilot asked for a change of runway minutes before the aircraft was to land.

“The permission was granted. We don’t ask (why), whenever a pilot asks we give permission to change approach,” Anup Joshi, a spokesperson for Pokhara airport said.

Nepal, home to some of the world’s largest mountain ranges, including Everest, is home to frequent plane crashes.

Sunday’s accident was the deadliest since 1992 when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed as it hit a hill while trying to land in Kathmandu.

(Additional reporting by agencies)