Nepal crash pilot is the widow of a pilot who died in 2006 crash

PHOTO: One of the pilots of the crashed Yeti Airlines flight was the widow of another pilot who died in a crash 16 years earlier. (via NPR)

Dipak Pokhrel was a pilot with Yeti Airlines whose career ended abruptly in 2006 when he died in an aeroplane crash. The small Twin Otter passenger plane he was flying went down minutes before landing in Jumla.

Four years later, his widow, Anju Khatiwada joined Yeti Airlines in 2010, after receiving pilot training with the money she received from the insurance after her husband’s death. Sadly, her career also ended abruptly when she co-piloted the flight from Kathmandu that crashed as it approached the city of Pokhara on January 15.

The husband and wife pilot couple were both killed in separate air crashes on the same airline that occurred 16 years apart.

Anju had extensive flying experience with over 6,400 hours and had previously piloted the same popular tourist route, the flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara, where the crash occurred.

The crash just a few days ago, which killed at least 68 people, is considered to be the deadliest plane accident in Nepal in three decades. Unfortunately, no survivors were found among the 72 people on board.

Officials have identified the body of Kamal KC, the captain of the flight who had over 21,900 hours of flight time. While Khatiwada’s remains have not been identified yet, the co-pilot is not expected to have survived the crash. An anonymous coworker with the airline spoke to the press about it.

“On Sunday, she was flying the plane with an instructor pilot, which is the standard procedure of the airline. She was always ready to take up any duty and had flown to Pokhara earlier.”

According to witnesses, and a video posted on social media, the ATR-72 aircraft co-piloted by Khatiwada rolled violently before crashing into a gorge near Pokhara airport and bursting into flames. The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, which could aid in determining the cause of the crash during clear weather conditions, were retrieved on Monday.

It is a sad reminder of the dangers that come with flying in a country like Nepal where sudden weather changes can make for hazardous conditions. Nearly 350 people have died since 2000 in an aeroplane or helicopter crash in Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest. This husband and wife pilot couple are just one of many tragic stories emerging from the devastating crash on Sunday.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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