Six people were killed when a helicopter taking tourists to see the world’s highest peak suddenly crashed near Mount Everest on Tuesday, officials in Nepal said.
Five tourists — all Mexican nationals — were on board the aircraft when it went down in the Lamjura area, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said in a press release.
The Nepalese pilot was also killed in the crash. “Locals and the police who reached the crashed site reported all 6 persons including Pilot dead,” the authority said. The group of tourists included two men and three women.
The aircraft was returning to the capital city of Kathmandu after taking the tourists to view the world’s highest peak early Tuesday morning. Weather conditions had caused the helicopter’s planned flight route to change, airport officials said.
During monsoon season, which begins in mid-June, it’s common for heavy rains to cause flights to be delayed and routes to be shifted. The helicopter lost contact with the ground at 10:13 a.m., not long after it took off from Surke to head back to Kathmandu, officials said.
Two helicopters of Altitude Air were mobilized for the rescue operation, but due to the adverse weather, they could not land at the crash site, located on Lamjura Pass at an altitude of 13,779 feet.
Local security agencies have also been mobilized for the rescue efforts, officials said. The six bodies will be taken by ground transportation to the helicopter landing area before they are flown to Kathmandu, the authority said. The passengers have been identified as Fernando Sifuentes, Abric Gonzalez, Olacio Luz Gonzalez, Maria Jose Sifuentes and Ismael Rincon — all tourists from Mexico.
The Nepalese pilot has been identified as Captain Chet B Gurung, Nepal Times reported. The cause of the crash is not yet known, but nearly all aviation disasters in Nepal are due to CFIT (Controlled Flight into Terrain) in which an aircraft collides with mountains hidden by clouds.
Tuesday morning’s incident was the worst Nepal has seen since a passenger plane crashed six months ago, killing 72 passengers and four crew members.
There have been 941 fatalities across 73 crashes in Nepal since 1962. Of those, at least 10 crashes involved helicopters, resulting in the deaths of 77 people.