Nineteen people have died in a plane crash in Nepal. They were on their way to climb Mount Everest. The plane crashed into a field shortly after take-off from the capital Kathmandu. It was bound for Lukla, the starting point for a trek through the Himalayan mountains to the base camp of Mount Everest. ITV's Paul Davies reports.
KATMANDU, Nepal -- A plane carrying trekkers to the Everest region crashed and caught fire just after takeoff Friday in Nepal's capital, killing 19 people.
The victims included British, Chinese and Nepali passengers, authorities said.
The pilot of the domestic Sita Air flight reported trouble two minutes after takeoff, and Katmandu airport official Ratish Chandra Suman said the pilot appeared to have been trying to turn back.
The crash site is only 547 yards from the airport, and the wrecked plane was pointing toward the airport area.
Reuters said it was a twin-engine, propeller-driven Dornier aircraft.
Investigators were trying to determine the cause of the crash and identify the bodies. Suman said he could not confirm if the plane was already on fire before it crashed.
Villagers forced back by flames
Cellphone video shot by locals showed the front section of the plane was on fire when it first hit the ground and it appeared the pilot had attempted to land the plane on open ground beside a river.
The fire quickly spread to the rear, but the tail was still in one piece at the scene near the Manohara River on the southwest edge of Katmandu.
Villagers were unable to approach the plane because of the fire and it took some time for firefighters to reach the area and bring the fire under control.
A plane carrying 19 people crashed shortly after taking off in Katmandu, Nepal, catching fire and killing all on board. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.
Soldiers and police shifted through the crash wreckage looking for bodies and documents to help identify the victims.
Seven passengers were British and five were Chinese; the other four passengers and the three crew members were from Nepal, authorities said.
Large numbers of local people and security forces gathered at the crash site. The charred bodies were taken by vans to the hospital morgue.
Gateway to Everest
The weather in Katmandu and surrounding areas was clear on Friday morning, and it was one of the first flights to take off from Katmandu's Tribhuwan International Airport. Other flights reported no problems, and the airport operated normally.
The plane was heading for Lukla, the gateway to Mount Everest. Thousands of Westerners make treks in the region around the world's highest peak each year. Autumn is considered the best time to trek the foothills of the Himalayan peaks.
In May, 15 people were killed when their plane crashed into a hill in northwest Nepal.
Autumn is the peak tourism season in Nepal, which has eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest. At least 11 people were killed in an avalanche in northwest Nepal on Sunday.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
Dec. 4: Nepal's top politicians hold their Cabinet meeting on Mount Everest to highlight the danger global warming poses on glaciers ahead of next week's climate change talks in Copenhagen. Msnbc.com's Dara Brown reports.
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