The co-pilot of the Yeti Airlines flight that crashed in Nepal on Sunday was thee the widow of a pilot who flew the same airline and was also killed in a plane crash 16 years ago. Anju Khatiwada joined Yeti Airlines in 2010 a few years after her pilot husband Dipak Pokhrel died in a Yeti airlines crash.
The twin-engine ATR 72 Yeti Airlines aircraft was carrying 72 people – four crew members and 68 passengers – when it crashed near the airport of the tourist city of Pokhara on Sunday. So far 70 people have been confirmed dead, while the search for the remaining two bodies is still on.
Cursed Flight, Cursed Couple
Anju Khatiwada was co-piloting Yeti Airlines flight 691 when it crashed into a gorge not far from the tourist destination of Pokhara, killing everyone on board in the country's worst aviation catastrophe in 30 years. Khatiwada's death was much like her husband who died 16 years ago.
Dipak Pokhrel, who was also a pilot with Yeti Airlines, lost his life when the small passenger aircraft he was piloting crashed just before landing.
"Her husband, Dipak Pokhrel, died in 2006 in a crash of a Twin Otter plane of Yeti Airlines in Jumla," airline spokesperson 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."
Dipak Pokhrel was in the cockpit when the Twin Otter prop plane crashed and caught fire in June 2006, killing all nine people on board. The jet was delivering rice and supplies to the western village of Jumla.
It was his death that spurred Khatiwada to pursue a career in aviation. She was devastated by her loss and was left alone with their little child. Her grief served as her driving force and she took up the job of a pilot in 2010.
Khatiwada, a pilot with more than 6,400 hours of flight experience, had previously flown the well-traveled route from the nation's capital, Kathmandu, to Pokhara, its second-largest city, according to Bartaula.
"She was a full captain at the airline who had done solo flights," Sudarshan Bartaula from Yeti Airlines said. "She was a brave woman."
"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.
Later, as Khatiwada continued to build her career, she remarried and had a second child. She was a joy to be around, according to her friends and family, and she loved her profession. It is a tragedy inside a tragedy because she and her first husband perished in the same manner.
Parts of the aircraft that Khatiwada was co-piloting lay strewn across the banks of the River Seti at the accident scene in Pokhara, like the broken pieces of a toy. The green and yellow of Yeti Airlines could still be seen through the intact windows of the small portion of the airplane that was resting on the canyon.
This came as an Indian passenger on board the ill-fated flight appeared to have live-streamed the final moments on Facebook Live. The video shot from the passenger's phone has since gone viral on social media.
The video, which was allegedly captured by an Indian man by the name of Sonu Jaiswal, appears to show passengers grinning as the jet passes over buildings. The Yeti Airlines logo can be seen over Jaiswal's shoulder, and there is also an advertisement for Nepalese insurance on the tray of the aircraft.
Suddenly there is an explosion and the screen goes topsy-turvy. The final few seconds show a horrifying fire outside the window and cries of distraught passengers can be heard. The phone kept on recording even as the plane was engulfed in flames.
Jaiswal's phone was recovered from the debris at the site of the crash. Jaiswal was one of the five Indians killed in the fatal crash, who live streamed the video on Facebook Live.
Although the veracity of the video has not independently verified, the Times of India claims to have spoken to Jaiswal's cousin, who confirmed the 29-year-old was on the aircraft. According to the investigation, just before the collision, one of Jaiswal's companions—all three of whom were also Indians — shouted, "It's real fun!"
Also, one of the air hostesses, Oshin Ale, who was in charge of the flight made a TikTok video minutes before the flight took off from Kathmandu. Ale can be seen smiling in the viral video to a popular Hindi film song "Pehla Nasha Pehla Khumar" playing in the background.
The footage was taken before the passengers got on the plane.
According to eyewitness testimonies and a video of the crash released on social media, the ATR-72 aircraft that Khatiwada was co-piloting slid from side to side before coming down in a ravine close to the airport in Pokhara and catching fire.
On Monday, the airplane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, which could help investigators in figuring out what caused it to crash in clear weather, were found.
Since 2000, accidents involving aircraft or helicopters in Nepal have claimed close to 350 lives. Eight of the 14 highest mountains in the world, including Mt. Everest, are located in this nation, and unexpected weather changes can result in dangerous conditions.