UK & World News
Pilot Error 'Likely Cause' Of Plane Crash
A plane crash in Nepal that killed 19 people, including seven Britons, was almost certainly caused by pilot error, officials have said.
The Dornier aircraft, which was taking trekkers from the capital Kathmandu to the town of Lukla before they went on an expedition to Mount Everest, came down shortly after take-off.
It had been claimed the pilot of the twin-propeller Sita Air plane had reported hitting a bird, thought to be a vulture or kite, moments before the crash and this may have caused the disaster.
But aviation ministry official Suresh Acharya said: "A plane crash does not occur simply just because its engine was hit by a bird."
He noted incidents where one engine of a twin-engine aircraft had failed and the plane was still able to land safely.
Mr Acharya said in Friday's disaster the pilot may have been "panic-stricken" and could have turned too sharply to try to get back to the airport without gaining enough altitude following the bird strike.
He added: "The pilot's failure to maintain the required radius is a likely cause of the accident."
Air accident investigators from the UK are heading to Nepal to help local authorities investigate the crash.
The plane reported problems within two minutes of taking off.
The capital's airport said the aircraft's right engine burst into flames after being hit by a large bird, and slammed into a river bank moments later, exploding into a huge fireball.
Footage showed the front section of the plane was on fire when it hit the ground, and it appeared the pilot attempted to land the aircraft on open ground beside the Manohara River.
The fire quickly spread to the rear, but the tail was still in one piece at the crash site.
Meanwhile, police have handed over the plane's black box data recorder to authorities investigating the disaster.
"We have taken out the data recorder and handed it over to the civil aviation authorities. The rescue work at the site has ended," national police spokesman Binod Singh said.
As well as the seven Britons, five Chinese people and three passengers and four crew members from the Himalayan country were also killed, including the Nepalese tour guide.
The victims were due to begin a trek towards Everest Base Camp on Saturday on an expedition scheduled to last until mid-October with Farnborough-based Explore Worldwide, using local guides from Sherpa Adventures.
Sherpa Adventures have named the British victims as Raymond Eagle, 58, Christopher Davey, 51, Vincent Kelly, 50, Darren Kelly, 45, Timothy Oakes, 57, Stephen Holding, 60, and Benjamin Ogden, 27.
It is understood that Vincent and Darren Kelly, from Bolton, Greater Manchester, were brothers.
The Foreign Office said the families of the victims had been informed and it has set up a helpline for concerned relatives on 020 7008 1500.