Kathmandu/Ghazipur: It was an ill-fated trip for 72 people on board on the flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara on January 15, but now a four-member group of friends from India have garnered global media attention. A video filmed by the group, which shows the final moments before the crash, has gone viral globally.
In the footage taken by a passenger out of a window as the plane came in for a landing, buildings, roads and greenery are visible below. The video, by Sonu Jaiswal and verified by The Associated Press, then shows a violent jolt and a series of jerky images accompanied by yelling before flames fill the screen.
Jaiswal (29) was one of four friends from Ghazipur district in Uttar Pradesh. With him were Anil Rajbhar, Vishal Sharma and Abhishek Kushwaha. BBC reported that the video was posted to Jaiswal's profile, which is a private account. However, the video has been widely circulated on social media over the past day.
The viral video
The group shared their experience on the ill-fated Yeti Airlines flight in the 1.30 minute video, where one of them can be heard saying 'Mauj Kar Di' (it has been a great fun). During the FB Live video, the smartphone camera also panned to Jaiswal.
As the phone camera continued to roll, it caught glimpses of towering flames around it for the next 30 seconds.
The friends from Baresar in Ghazipur were among five Indians who died along with 68 other passengers in the crash. They landed in Kathmandu on January 13 and were heading for Pokhara for paragliding, after performing puja at the Pashupatinath temple.
It was Sonu's FB profile where the video was live, his cousin Rajat Jaiswal confirmed according to an IANS report.
"Sonu was on Facebook live after boarding the flight for Pokhara. The live-streaming showed that Sonu and his companions were in a happy mood but suddenly, flames appeared before the streaming stopped," he said.
The FB Live video during the fatal crash has now triggered concerns about more air travellers now experimenting with such behaviour while landing, which may put airplanes at safety risks.
The twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft, operated by Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, was completing the 27-minute flight from the capital, Kathmandu, to Pokhara, 200 kilometers (125 miles) west. It was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreign nationals, as well as four crew members, Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. The foreigners included five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France.
Many of the passengers on Sunday's flight were returning home to Pokhara, though the city is also popular with tourists since it's the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit hiking trail.
A witness who recorded footage of the plane’s descent said it looked like a normal landing until the plane suddenly veered to the left.
"I saw that, and I was shocked," said Diwas Bohora. “I thought that today everything will be finished here after it crashes, I will also be dead.”
After it crashed, red flames erupted and the ground shook violently, Bohora said. “Seeing that scene, I was scared,” he added. Sunday’s crash is the country's deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it plowed into a hill as it tried to land in Kathmandu.
Amit Singh, an experienced pilot and founder of India’s Safety Matters Foundation, told AP that Bohora's video appears to show a stall, a situation in which a plane loses lift, especially likely at low airspeeds.
Families of deceased Indians head to Kathmandu
IANS reported that a member each from the families of the four youths left for Kathmandu by road along with a village head and two local government officials to receive bodies. A local official said Sonu's father Rajendra Jaiswal, Anil's father Ramdashrath Rajbhar, Vishal's brother Vishwajit and Abhishek's brother Abhinesh were headed to Nepal by road.
The bodies will reach Kathmandu from Pokhara on Tuesday, after which the process of ascertaining their identities will begin.
In case physical identification is not possible, officials said DNA sampling would be done and matched with family members. After the bodies are identified, they will be sent to India by road and are expected to reach on Wednesday or Thursday.
It's still not clear what caused the crash , which took place less than a minute's flight from the airport on a mild day with little wind. However, search teams retrieved the flight data and cockpit voice recorders on Monday which would aid official investigations.