Plane crash near Mt. Everest kills 18, mostly German tourists


KATMANDU, Nepal — A small airplane crashed and caught fire Wednesday as it tried to land in foggy weather near Mt. Everest, killing 18 people, including 14 tourists from Germany and Australia, an airport official said. Only a pilot survived the crash.

The Yeti Airlines 19-seat Twin Otter plane, which had taken off from the capital, Katmandu, snagged its wheels on a security fence during its landing at Lukla Airport, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) from Mt. Everest, said Mohan Adhikari, general manager of the Katmandu airport.

The plane caught fire and came to a stop within the airport, Adhikari said.

He said 19 people were on board, including 12 German, two Australian and two Nepalese tourists – and two Nepalese crew members. One of the Nepalese pilots survived the crash and was flown to Katmandu for medical treatment, he said.

The visibility at Lukla Airport was about 1,310 feet (400 meters), just enough for the aircraft’s landing, he said.

The tiny Lukla airport, little more than a runway carved from the side of the Himalayas at an altitude of 2,800 meters (9,200 feet), is an important jumping-off point for trekkers beginning their hikes and mountaineers heading to Everest.

The walk takes several days from there to Mt. Everest Base Camp.

The airport is famous among travelers for its dramatic scenery, its stomach-lurching landings – and its occasional crashes. The end of the runway has a steep drop of a few hundred meters.

In 2005, nine passengers and three crew members survived a crash in a small Gorkha Airlines plane with minor injuries.