Bad weather, nightfall suspend search for missing chopper; Fate of all 24 passengers still unknown
By DHARMA POUDEL & SURESH NATH NEUPANE
KATHMANDU, Sept 23 - A Shree Airlines helicopter bound for Suketar from Ghunsa, Taplejung, with 24 passengers on board, went missing Saturday morning.
Chief District Officer of Taplejung district, Hem Nath Dawadi said that they had lost contact with the 9AN helicopter this morning at around 9 a.m. while it was returning to Suketar from Ghunsa.
According to Dawadi, State Minister for Forest, Gopal Rai, some foreign embassy officials, senior World Wild Life Fund (WWF) officials and two journalists are among those who were onboard the missing chopper.
Minister Rai and the officials from the WWF had reached Taplejung to attend a function to mark the handing over of the Kanchanjunga Conservation Area to the local community.
Two helicopters of the Nepal Army had been dispatched to search for the missing copter early today but bad weather and nightfall have forced the suspension of all aerial search operations, an official at the Rescue Coordination Centre, Tribhuvan International Airport said.
"It will resume again 5:30 Sunday morning," Bimalesh Lal Karna, the manager of the Rescue Coordination Centre told eKantipur.
Karna added an Air Dynasty helicopter made aerial surveys of the Ghunsa area and is stationed at Ghunsa for the night.
Local Sherpas from Ghunsa told the authorities at Taplejung that the helicopter had taken off at 11: 30 this morning and soon after which they heard a loud noise.
Two groups including NA soldiers on the ground from Lelep and Ghunsa are combing the mountainous area.
The KCA covers an area of 2,035 km sq and it takes two days to reach the remote village of Ghunsa from the district headquarters in Taplejung.
List of persons on board the helicopter:
1. Mr. Gopal Rai, Minister of State of Forests and Soil Conservation
3. Dr. Harka Gurung, Advisor, WWF Nepal
4. Dr. Damodar Parajuli, Acting Secretary – Ministry of State of Forests and Soil Conservation
5. Mr. Narayan Poudel, Director General of Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation
6. Mr. Sharad Rai, Director General of Department of Forests
7. Mr. Pauli Mustonnen, Charge d’Affaires, Embassy of Finland (Finnish)
8. Ms. Margaret Alexander, Dy. Director, USAID (Amercian)
9. Dr. Bijnan Acharya, Program Dev. Specialist, USAID
10. Dr. Jill Bowling, Conservation Director, WWF UK (Australian)
11. Ms. Jennifer Headley, Coordinator, WWF UK (Canadian)
12. Mr. Mingma Norbu Sherpa, Managing Director, EHEC, WWF US
13. Matthew Preece, Program Officer, WWF US (Amercian)
14. Dr. Chandra Gurung, Country Representative, WWF Nepal
15. Dr. Tirtha Man Maskey, Co-Chair, AsRSG
16. Mrs. Yeshi Lama, WWF Nepal
17. Mr. Vijaya Shrestha, Central Committee Member, FNCCI
18. Mr. Hem Raj Bhandari, Nepal Television
19. Mr. Sunil Singh, Nepal Television
20. Mr. Dawa Tshering, Chairperson, KCAMC
21. Captain Klim Kim (Russian)
22. Saffron Vallery (Russian)
23. Mingma Sherpa, Captain
24. Tandu Shrestha (Crew)
Posted on: 2006-09-23 03:41:49 (Server Time)
Missing chopper found, all 24 passengers dead
By SURESH NATH NEUPANE & RISHAV BASHYAL
KATHMANDU, Sept 25 - The wreckage of the Shree Airlines helicopter that went missing since Saturday morning with 24 high profile passengers on board has been found two kilometres south west of Ghunsa, Taplejung district, CAAN Monday confirmed. All 24 people onboard were found dead.
The chopper was located at a site 1 nautical mile, 1.8 kilometres (1.15 miles) south-west of Ghunsa by WWF Nepal and the Himalayan Mountain Rescue Association team.
On Sunday, a Nepal Army helicopter had dropped seven people -- five rescuers and two WWF officials -- at Gyalba, some two-hours away by foot from Ghunsa, the most accessible place near the presumed crash site of the chopper.
The same team, at 1:00 pm today discovered the wreckage along with the bodies of the 24 passengers, said Himesh Lal Karna, the manager of the Rescue Coordination Centre.
The seven Nepali and 17 foreign nationals aboard the chopper included the State Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation Gopal Rai, his wife, some foreign embassy officials, senior World Wild Life Fund (WWF) officials, conservation officials from Nepal and two journalists.
According to the information given to the Suketar Airport tower by the team follow