Doctors in Nepal struggle to identify 14 killed when plane crash on way to Everest region

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Doctors struggled Wednesday to identify the remains of 14 people, including six foreign tourists, who were killed in a plane crash while heading to the Mount Everest region in heavy rain.

The remains, flown to Katmandu by rescue helicopters, were being examined at the Tribhuwan University Teaching Hospital.

Dr. Pramod Shrestha at the hospital said the task of identifying the bodies was difficult because none of the remains was intact.

Shrestha said they were using information provided by family members such as the clothes the victims were wearing, jewelry and body marks.

He said Nepal did not have the technology to identify remains through DNA testing and would have to send samples abroad for any such tests.

The private Agni Air plane heading to the Mount Everest region crashed in heavy rain outside Nepal's capital on Tuesday, killing all 14 people aboard, including four Americans, a Briton and a Japanese.

The German-built Dornier turboprop plane was headed to Lukla, a popular stop for trekkers and mountaineers, when cloud cover there forced it to turn back to the capital. It went down near Shikharpur village, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Katmandu.

Video footage and photos of the crash site released by the army showed a wide ditch made by the impact and the plane broken into small pieces.

Agni Air said all the foreigners were tourists.

The Americans were identified as Irina Shekhets, 30, Leuzi Cardoso, 49, Heather Finch, 40, and Kendra Fallon, 18. The Japanese passenger was Yuki Hayashi, 19, and the Briton was Jeremy Taylor, 30.

The rescue coordination office at Katmandu's Tribhuwan International Airport said soldiers first reached the crash site on foot. The route from the nearest town was blocked by a river flooded by monsoon rains.

Lukla is the only air strip in the Everest region. Thousands of trekkers and mountaineers fly there every year to begin their journey to Everest and surrounding peaks and trekking trails. However, few travel there during the monsoon season. It is little more than a runway carved into the side of the Himalayas at an altitude of 9,200 feet (2,800 meters).

The Dornier 228 twin-turboprop had its first flight in 1981. A total of 270 were built by German planemaker Dornier and India's HAL. About 120 remain in service worldwide.

According to the U.S.-based Aviation Safety Network, 29 have been lost in various accidents, with a total of 122 fatalities.


Associated Press Writer Slobodan Lekic in Brussels contributed to this report.