Nepal: Allegedly harrowing video shows final moments inside cabin before deadly plane crash



CNN

A Facebook Live video purportedly showing the final horrific moments inside the cabin of Yeti Airlines Flight 691 before it crashed in Nepal on Sunday has been widely circulated online as search and recovery efforts continue on the ground.

The plane crashed en route from Nepal’s capital Kathmandu to Pokhara, the tourist gateway to the Himalayas. There were 72 people on board, including four crew members, according to an airline spokesman.

All but two bodies were found and the crash marked the country’s deadliest air disaster in more than 30 years.

The footage, allegedly broadcast live from inside the plane by a passenger named Sonu Jaiswal, began moments before the plane crashed. It shows an airplane window with the wings visible as the plane banked sharply to the left.

At one point, Jaiswal, seemingly unaware of the impending danger, turns the video toward himself, smiling slightly amid the chatter and laughter in the background. Several passengers can be heard chatting excitedly in Hindi and Punjabi; as the plane passed a lake, one said, “Look at that water, it’s amazing”.

The atmosphere inside the plane appeared calm, with no urgent warnings from the pilot or crew. A few seconds later, the video suddenly started shaking, and shouting was heard; the lens lost focus, only flashes and loud noises appeared, and then a fire broke out at the scene.

CNN confirmed the video based on geographic location, flight listings and information on Yeti Airlines’ website.

Jaiswal was listed as a passenger on the flight manifest, and the seat number listed for him on the airline’s website matched photos taken from inside the plane.

Jaiswal’s close friend in India, Arman Ansari, also confirmed that it was Jaiswal who was seen in the video. He added that he was watching Jaiswal’s Facebook Live during the flight.

“We were watching it. We watched it for a few seconds and then it got cut. We didn’t think much of it,” he said.

Aryaka Akhouri, head of the Gazipur district in India, where Jaiswal lives, said she had spoken to Jaiswal’s parents and confirmed that he was on the plane and was the one who took the video.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) said the video was not from Sunday’s crash. When pressed, he said he and his team had no technical evidence to support the claim. Instead, he pointed to passengers laughing at the first sign of turbulence before panicking seconds later, to prove it couldn’t have been a Yeti Airlines flight.

Aviation analyst Mary Schiavo told CNN the video could help the investigation, saying it may have captured details not recorded in the plane’s black boxes. For example, the plane’s flaps, which provide extra lift during landing, “don’t look like (it’s) fully extended,” she said.

She added that what appeared to be the sound of the engine indicated “they had at least one engine with power.”

Search and recovery efforts continued on Tuesday for the two people who are still missing, according to Nepalese police. District police chief Ajaya KC said foggy conditions had made searches difficult and authorities planned to use drones to search for missing persons when the weather improved.

Meanwhile, an investigation into the cause of the crash is underway with the assistance of French investigators, who are due to arrive at the scene on Tuesday. The plane’s black box, which records flight data, was recovered on Monday and will be handed over to CAAN, officials said.

Aviation authorities said Tuesday that the pilot of the plane asked air traffic controllers to change the runway minutes before the plane crashed.

CAAN spokesman Jagannath Niroula said the Pokhara airport has two runways that the pilot can choose when landing and the pilot’s request has been accepted.

“When the Yeti pilot asked the tower if it was okay to land on the second runway, the tower approved it,” he said. “The tower controllers didn’t ask why the pilot wanted to use a different runway than originally planned, because from their perspective, it wasn’t a technical issue which runway the pilot chose to land on,” Niroula told CNN.

He added that the pilot did not report the distress call to the Pokhara airport tower controller.

Families are devastated after the crash of Yeti Airlines Flight 691 on Jan. 15.

Crowds held candlelight vigils for the victims in Kathmandu and Pokhara on Monday.

At least 41 of the recovered bodies have been identified, Yeti Airlines said in a statement Monday. Some of the remains will be handed over to their families in Pokhara, while others – including those of foreigners – will be airlifted to Kathmandu on Tuesday, police said.

According to CAAN, there were 15 foreigners on board, from India, Russia, South Korea, Australia, Ireland, Argentina and France.

Video on Monday showed grieving families in Pokhara waiting outside the hospital where autopsies are being carried out. The autopsy was delayed because the team of forensic experts did not arrive in Pokhara until Monday afternoon, according to police and airline officials.

Some families have opened up about their loss. In a statement on Tuesday, the family of Australian victim Myron Love said the 29-year-old teacher was an avid cyclist who “lived life to the fullest”.

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