At least five people have been killed after a helicopter carrying foreign tourists crashed near Mount Everest in Nepal on Tuesday. Another person on the aircraft was still missing.
According to international media reports, the helicopter was carrying five Mexican nationals and a Nepali pilot and had gone missing earlier in the day.
The helicopter crashed in the Lamajura area. Rescuers recovered the bodies of five people and were searching for the sixth person, said Basanta Bhattarai, the chief government administrator in the area.
The aircraft was bringing the tourists back to the capital, Kathmandu, in the morning after a sightseeing trip to the world’s highest peak.
As per reports, airport official Sagar Kadel said weather conditions forced changes to the helicopter’s planned flight route. It is common for flights to be delayed and routes changed during the monsoon season amid heavy rains.
The tourist and mountaineering season ended in May with the onset of the rainy season, and tourist flights to the mountains are less common this time of year as visibility is poor and weather conditions become unpredictable.
The helicopter was operated by Manang Air. The company said the chopper took off at 10:04am (04:19 GMT) from Surke in Solukhunvhu district, home to Mount Everest and other high mountain peaks, but lost contact about 10 minutes later.
The incident comes almost six months after a plane crash in western Nepal, which killed all 72 people on board. The Himalayan country has some of the world’s most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even for accomplished pilots.
The weather can also change quickly in the mountains, creating treacherous flying conditions.
In addition, Nepal’s aviation sector has been plagued by poor safety due to insufficient training and maintenance. The European Union has banned all Nepali carriers from its airspace over safety concerns.