KATHMANDU: 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 KC, 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 authorised to speak to the 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 gorge near Pokhara airport and catching fire, according to eyewitness accounts and a video of the crash posted on social media.
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.
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.